Sunday, January 06, 2008

Two or Three Questions

No matter what role you cast Morgan Freeman in, he's God.

In The Bucket List, an aspartame-sweet buddy movie currently dispensing facile sentiments at a theatre near you, Morgan Freeman plays an auto mechanic with terminal cancer. His fellow cancer patient, a billionare Scrooge played by Jack Nicholson, takes him on a trip around the world so the two can experience things they have always dreamed of before they die.

This would be a turkey if it weren't for fine performances by Nicholson and Freeman both: the kind of performers that transcend bland material and contrived sentimentality, and create engaging and enjoyable characters. Thanks, guys - if it weren't for you, I'd want my money back.

Yet Morgan Freeman, gifted with enormous presence and a voice resonant of many civilizations, is an actor who all too easily becomes a divine presence - even the modest, quiz-show-addicted automobile mechanic from the Crenshaw district he portrays here. Soon, he and Nicholson are sitting on top of a pyamid in Giza, and Freeman is beaming numinously behind sunglasses asking the Two Great Questions that Egyptians gods ask you upon your death:

Did you find joy in your life?
Has your life brought joy to others?

Cue the Spielberg cloud formations and John Williams music.

These gateway questions pare things down quite a bit. It took four ghosts an entire evening to convey as much to Ebenezer Scrooge! Yet I thought of this scene immediately, and find I prefer these three questions (as well as its portrayal of the gateway to the final mysteries):

from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

1 comment:

Jane R said...

Morgan Freeman isn't God?