Editor’s Note: One of my preoccupations of late has been the question, “Is there a transcendent aesthetic or embodiment of the holy in cinema? And if so, what does it look like?” While we can easily point to some films (e.g.
Blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) meet for the first time in the hospital after both have been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Although Edward is reluctant to share a room with Carter, complaining that he "looks half-dead already", they become friends as they undergo their respective treatments. Carter is a gifted amateur historian and family man who had wanted to become a history professor in his youth, had been "black, broke, [and with a] baby on the way" and, thus, never rose above his status as a mechanic at the McCreath body shop. Carter loves showing off his knowledge and his favorite show is Jeopardy!. Edward is a four-time divorced health-care tycoon and cultured loner who enjoys nothing more than tormenting his personal valet/servant, Thomas (Sean Hayes), who later reveals his name is actually Matthew. Edward prefers to call him Thomas because he finds the name Matthew "too biblical". Edward enjoys drinking Kopi Luwak, one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
Carter begins writing a "bucket list", or things to do before he "kicks the bucket" (i.e., dies). After hearing he has less than a year, Carter discards the list. Edward finds it the next morning and urges Carter to do everything on the list (and adds more things to do), and offers to finance the trip for the both of them. Carter agrees, despite the protests of his wife, Virginia (Beverly Todd). Edward and Carter begin an around-the-world vacation. They go skydiving together, drive a Shelby Mustang, fly over the North Pole, eat dinner at Chevre d'Or in France, visit and praise the beauty and history of Taj Mahal, India, ride motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, attend a lion safari in Africa, and visit the base of Mt Everest in Nepal (which was unfortunately shrouded in cloud). Atop the Great Pyramid, looking out over the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, they confide about faith and family, revealing that Carter has long been feeling less in love with his wife and that Edward is deeply hurt by his estrangement from his only daughter, who disowned him after he drove away her abusive husband. In Hong Kong, Edward hires a prostitute named Angelica (Rowena King) for Carter, who has never been with any woman but his wife. Carter declines and, realizing that he loves his wife, asks to return home. On the drive back, Carter reciprocates by trying to reunite Edward with his daughter. Edward angrily storms off. Carter returns home to his wife, children, and grandchildren where they have a nice family dinner telling stories and sharing jokes while a frustrated Edward stays home eating frozen dinners alone.
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