Morgan Freeman Month #3: The Bucket List, Bruce Almighty

The Bucket List

Who Are These Guys?

The Story Line.

The movie opens when Carter (Morgan Freeman), a Master mechanic, receives a phone call from his doctor while he’s at work, informing him that he has cancer. Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) gets his cancer warning unexpectedly when he coughs up blood in a business meeting. He’s rushed to the hospital he just bought (no kidding). When he demands a private room, his assistant reminds him that he’s said very publicly many times before: “I run hospitals, not health spas. Two beds to a room; no exceptions.” So, Edward has a roommate: Carter.

We learn that Cole is a brilliant, billionaire businessman. But, he doesn’t intimidate his roommate. Carter has a mind like a steel trap. He’s a PhD. in disguise. (You’ll see what I mean if you watch the movie.) The two men start a conversation.

Through their talk Edward learns that Carter has raised three children: a tax attorney, an engineer and a symphony violinist. Think of it: all that education on a car mechanic’s salary; talk about a high value.

Carter asks, “Do you have children?” Edward says, “I never stayed married long enough.” Carter replies, “Don’t worry, I’ve been married long enough for the both of us.” Edward: “How’s that goin’?” Carter, straight-faced, “It’s goin.” Cole says, “I’ve been married four times ’cause I love being married; only problem is, I love being single, too. Hard to do both at the same time. Only successful marriage I’ve had is with my work; started making money when I was sixteen.”

Carter says, “I always wanted to be a history professor and I made it through two semesters of City College before Virginia, my wife, gave me the news; I was young, black, broke, baby on the way; I took the first decent job that came along. I always meant to go back but 45 years goes by pretty fast.” (Yes, it does.)

This conversation is the start of their friendship together. They play cards, they talk; they get to know each other. And, a defining moment: Edward happens upon a list that Carter made originally in his freshman college class 45 years earlier: a Bucket List.

Edward, of course, thinks Carter’s list is too tame; Edward is a world-traveled risk-taker. He thinks the list needs more excitement. And, definitely, Edward thinks they should “do” the list NOW; “It beats sitting around waiting to die,” says Edward.

So, Edward convinces Carter to go on the trip with him. Carter’s wife protests vigorously. But, Carter says he thinks he’s earned some time for himself and so off he and Edward go. Carter, who tells this story, says, “And so it began.”

They skydive, drive racing cars, and travel in Edward’s private aircraft to eat caviar in France. They visit Cairo, drive through packs of wild animals in Africa, see the pyramids, motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, travel part way to the top of “Carter’s mountain” (can’t reach the top; there’s a storm) and finally end up in Hong Kong where they expect to buy silk suits and eat Black Walnut ice cream. But unexpectedly, Carter asks to go home. And, so they do.

Once there, Carter has a short time with his family. But, too soon he collapses and goes to the hospital where he waits to be operated on: without much hope. Carter dies on an operating table. He’s dead at 66 but thankfully, not before he had a last joke on Edward. (It’s about the coffee that Edward loves, but you really have to see the movie and share the laughs). By the time Carter died, they’d almost completed their shared Bucket List but not quite.

If you’re a person who looks for a deeper meaning in movies or books or life, I think you’ll really enjoy The Bucket List.

Bruce Almighty

Personally, Bruce Almighty is my favorite Jim Carrey movie ever. It’s never outlandish in its approach, and at times, it’s quite serious and adult. In fact, for a comedy, it presents some surprisingly deep philosophical questions concerning the actions of a just God and our place in the universe. Inevitably, it sparks internal and external debate among viewers in regard to what we would personally do if we held the power of God in the palm of our hand.

In Bruce Almighty, Carrey plays the role of Bruce Nolan, a local television reporter always assigned to cover less than thrilling events in and around his hometown. Dreaming of the network anchor chair, he works tirelessly to rid himself of the “funny guy” image. He lives with girlfriend Grace Connelly (Jennifer Aniston), but the two get into a major argument when Bruce, who loses his bid for anchorman to the underhanded Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), flies off the handle and loses his job. Discontent with his failure, and constantly blaming God, Bruce directs his anger at those around him. But in the interim, he receives numerous calls from an unknown phone number. When he finally calls the number, he’s offered an interview for “the job of his life”. Curious, Bruce attends the interview in a bleach-white building where he’s confronted by a mysterious janitor who claims to be God (Morgan Freeman).

God confronts Bruce with all the complaints he’s made, and then makes a surprising offer. God will let Bruce take his job for two weeks. God will go on vacation, and Bruce will be granted all the powers of the Almighty…

The result is an hour and a half of utter hilarity. Bruce begins by parting his tomato soup and proclaiming himself “Bruce Almighty”. He then uncovers the biggest story of the year when he “happens upon” the recovery of Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Inserting himself in the backdrop of an endless string of amazing news stories, Bruce gets his old job back and watches his personal stock soar. Sabotaging Evan’s career, Bruce is given the anchor chair he so covets.

But along the way, his relationship with Grace falls apart, the world around him edges closer to anarchy, and the powers of God become too much for Bruce to handle. Unable to cope with the looming disaster of his actions, Bruce encounters God once again, but this time his life perspective is far different than before…

Some of the scenes in this film are beyond description, they’re so funny. In one such scene, Bruce (now having the power of God) faces down a gang which had previously beat him senseless. What he does to their leader will make every viewer cringe. More than just a comedy, Bruce Almighty forces the audience to imagine themselves in a similar situation. A wonderful and intriguing idea for a story, Jim Carrey brings the film to life and entertains audiences with a comedic omnipotence of which God himself can be proud.

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