Friday, October 19, 2012

Case Study No. 0599: Joe Banks

Joe vs The Volcano - Joe Quits
A great scene from the beginnning of the movie Joe vs The Volcano. I was surprised to see that this clip wasn't up on YouTube already.
Tags: Joe Volcano
Added: 5 years ago
From: RdHolland
Views: 95,558



Shanley, John Patrick (Director). Joe Versus the Volcano. United States: Amblin Entertainment, 1990.

Starring: Tom Hanks (Joe Banks, Librarian); Meg Ryan (Patricia Graynamore)

"Once upon a time there was a guy named Joe who had a lousy job ..."

So opens this live-action fairy tale (you have to think of it that way or else it simply doesn't make sense), and the referenced "lousy job" is Advertising Librarian for a medical supply company (boasting 712,766 satisfied customers for their rectal probes). His dismal, dank, ugly, poorly lit, subterranean work area offers bad coffee, buzzing fluorescent lights, bare block walls, and an "artificial testicles prototype" on display. It's the perfect place for a hypochondriac to work.

"Library" is such a misnomer here -- no books (only an insufficient number of catalogs) and industrial metal shelving that seems to hold medical paraphernalia. Joe works for the worst boss in the world (in a children's fairy tale, this would be the wicked stepmother). When a doctor gives Joe six months to live, and a mysterious stranger makes him an offer he can't refuse, he quits his job with much hoopla and never looks back. As library or librarian movies go, this is an extreme outlier. You needn't wonder how it ends, not if you've ever read a fairy tale ...



Poor Joe doesn't feel good, he's all blotchy and lumpy, symptoms he has developed in the eight years he has worked for American Panascope, the wretched corporate "Home of the Rectal Probe." Once a courageous firefighter, Joe is now the librarian of the corporation's advertising department, supervised by one of the film's inventive kooks, Mr. Waturi (Dan Hedaya), a two-bit tyrant given to long, loud, monotonous telephone conversations: "I know he can get the job, but can he do the job? Yes, well, I know he can get the job, but can he do the job? Yes, well, I know he can get the job ..." Joe, stirring a clump of cream substitute into a gravy of coffee crystals, eyes googly from the fluorescents, finds he is actually looking forward to his afternoon doctor's appointment.

It's almost a relief when he learns that he is dying of a "brain cloud," which seems better than being bored to death. Then within days Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges), a billionaire with blazing eyes and a duck's-head cane, offers Joe a chance to go out in style. The leprechaun-like CEO promises him unlimited credit card privileges and a South Seas cruise if he will voyage to Waponi Woo -- literally "little island with a big volcano" -- and jump into the Big Woo.

The Waponi, a people descended from a galley of Druids and Jews swept off course on the way to Rome, have appeased the volcano by feeding it a native every 100 years. But time is short, no Waponi has volunteered and the mountain's stomach is grumbling. As Waponi Woo is the only source of boomer ore, upon which Graynamore's fortunes depend, he can't risk an eruption.

Devoutly silly and passionately endearing, Joe's odyssey becomes a journey toward death that renews his joy in life. He even manages to enjoy it when the Waponi beat him with sea bass and bananas in a pre-Woo purification rite. His recouped sense of self is in large part thanks to the Graynamore family, especially the independent Patricia, who captains the schooner Tweedledee on the sail to Waponi Woo. It's a land as raucously technicolorful as the factory was dun and drear, a citrus-bright paradise teeming with Polysemitic Celts in leis and celebratory headdresses made of orange soda cans.



(Mr. Waturi comes in. Joe cowers. He's threatened by Mr. Waturi)
MR. WATURI: How you doin', Joe?
JOE: Well. I'm not feeling very good, Mr. Waturi.
(Mr. Waturi chuckles)
MR. WATURI: So what else is new? You never feel good.
JOE: Yeah. Well. That's the problem. Anyway, I got the doctor's appointment today.
MR. WATURI: Another doctor's appointment?
JOE: Yeah.
MR. WATURI: Listen, Joe. What's this Dede tells me about the catalogs?
JOE: I've only got twelve.
MR. WATURI: How'd you let us get down to twelve?
JOE: I told you.
JOE: Three weeks ago. Then two weeks ago.
MR. WATURI: Did you tell me last week?
JOE: No.
MR. WATURI: Why not?
JOE: I don't know. I thought you knew.
MR. WATURI: Not good enough, Joe! Not nearly good enough! I put you in charge of the entire advertising library ...
JOE: You mean, this room ...
MR. WATURI: I gave you carte blanche how to deal with the materials in here ...
JOE: You put the orders into the printer, Mr. Waturi, not me. That's how you wanted it.
MR. WATURI: You're not competent to put the orders into the printer! That's a very technical ...
JOE: I thought you were going to explain it to me.
MR. WATURI: I was going to do better than that. I was going to make you assistant manager. I want to make you assistant manager. But you, you're not flexible! You're inflexible.
JOE: I don't feel inflexible.
MR. WATURI: You're inflexible. Totally. And this doctor appointment! You're always going to the doctor!
JOE: I don't feel good.
MR. WATURI: So what! Do you think I feel good? Nobody feels good. After childhood, it's a fact of life. I feel rotten. So what? I don't let it bother me. I don't let it interfere with my job.
JOE: What do you want from me, Mr. Waturi?
MR. WATURI: You're like a child. What's this lamp for? Isn't there enough light in here?
JOE: The florescents affect me. They make me feel blotchy, puffy. I thought this light would ...
MR. WATURI: Get rid of the light. This isn't your bedroom, this is an office. Maybe if you start treating this like a job instead of some kind of welfare hospital, you'll shape up. And I want those catalogs.
JOE: Then please order them.
MR. WATURI: Watch yourself, Joe. Think about what I've said. You've gotta get yourself into a flexible frame, or you're no place. (He starts to leave, but stops and looks back) Take that light off your desk.
JOE: I will.
MR. WATURI: Take it off now.
(Joe unplugs the light and takes it off his desk)
(Mr. Waturi leaves. Joe sits at his desk, shrinking in the fluourescent light. He sips his coffee. The phone rings and he answers)
JOE (answering the phone): Advertising library. Fifty? I'm sorry, we don't have that many in stock. I don't know why. The catalog is a thing ... I don't know. It's here and it's gone. I can't explain. It's a mystery.
(Joe hangs up the phone. Dede has quietly come in. She's looking at him. She speaks to him in a low voice)
DEDE: Why do you let Waturi talk to you like that?
JOE: Like what?
DEDE: What's wrong with you?
JOE: I don't ... feel very good.


(Joe comes in. Dede is typing away. Mr. Waturi is on the phone. Joe hangs up his coat. He misses with the hat again because of Dede's typing. He leans over and switches the typewriter off. Then he picks up his hat, dusts it off and throws it in the garbage can.)
MR. WATURI (on the phone): No. No. You were wrong. He was wrong. Who said that? I didn't say that. If I had said that, I would've been wrong. I would've been wrong, Harry, isn't that right?
(Mr. Waturi's attention is split between his call and Joe, who is walking around the office like a tourist.)
MR. WATURI: Listen, let me call you back, I've got something here, okay? And don't tell him anything till we finish our conversation, okay?
(Mr. Waturi hangs up the phone. Joe is looking at the coffee set-up.)
JOE: Yeah?
MR. WATURI: You were at lunch three hours.
JOE: About that.
(Joe wanders away, into his office. Waturi looks after.)


(Joe is staring at the big wheel valve sporting the sign that says "The Main Drain." Mr. Waturi comes in as Joe moves forward and, with great effort, rotates the wheel to its opposite extreme. This scares Mr. Waturi)
MR. WATURI: Joe, what are you doing?
JOE: I'm opening, or closing, the main drain.
(Nothing happens)
MR. WATURI: You shouldn't be touching that.
JOE: Nothing happened. Do you know how long I've been wondering what would happen if I did that?
MR. WATURI: What's the matter with you?
JOE: Brain cloud.
JOE: Never mind. Listen, Mr. Waturi. Frank. I quit.
(Joe starts to take some stuff out of his desk. He looks at his lamp, gets the cord, plugs it in, and turns it on)
MR. WATURI: You mean, today?
JOE: That's right.
MR. WATURI: That's great. Well, don't come looking for a reference.
JOE: Okay, I won't.
MR. WATURI: You blew this job.
(Joe takes in the little room)
JOE: I've been here for four and a half years. The work I did I probably could've done in five, six months. That leaves four years leftover.
(Joe has been filling up a shopping bag with stuff from his desk: three books - Romeo and Juliet, Robinson Crusoe and The Odyssey - an old ukulele and his lamp. Now he's finished. He walks out of the room without even looking at Mr. Waturi. Mr. Waturi goes after him as he exits)


(Joe is walking towards the front door. Mr. Waturi follows him in. Joe stops at Dede's desk. She's typing. He looks at her. She stops typing)
JOE: Four years. If I had them now. Like gold in my hand. Here. This is for you. (gives Dede the lamp) Bye-bye, Dede.
DEDE: You're going?
(Joe nods)
MR. WATURI: Well, if you're leaving, leave. You'll get your check. And, I promise you, you'll be easy to replace.
JOE: I should say something.
MR. WATURI: What are you talking about?
JOE: This life. Life? What a joke. This situation. This room.
MR. WATURI: Joe, maybe you should just ...
JOE: You look terrible, Mr. Waturi. You look like a bag of shit stuffed inna cheap suit. Not that anyone would look good under these zombie lights. I can feel them sucking the juice outta my eyeballs. Three hundred bucks a week, that's the news. For three hundred bucks a week I've lived in this sink. This used rubber ...
MR. WATURI: Watch it, mister! There's a woman here!
JOE: Don't you think I know that, Frank? Don't you think I'm aware there's a woman here? I can taste her on my tongue. I can smell her. When I'm twenty feet away, I can hear the fabric of her dress when she moves in her chair. Not that I've done anything about it. I've gone all day, every day, not doing, not saying, not taking the chance for three hundred bucks a week, and Frank, the coffee stinks, it's like arsenic, the lights give me a headache, if the lights don't give you a headache you must be dead, let's arrange the funeral.
MR. WATURI: You better get outta here right now! I'm telling you!
JOE: You're telling me nothing.
MR. WATURI: I'm telling you!
JOE: And why, I ask myself, why have I put up with you? I can't imagine, but I know. Fear. Yellow freakin' fear. I've been too chickenshit afraid to live my life, so I sold it to you for three hundred freakin' dollars a week! You're lucky I don't kill you! You're lucky I don't rip your freakin' throat out! But I'm not going to, and maybe you're not so lucky at that. 'Cause I'm gonna leave you here, Mister Wa-a-Waturi, and what could be worse than that?
(Joe opens the door and leaves. Mr. Waturi and Dede are frozen. The door reopens, and Joe comes halfway back in)
JOE: Dede?
DEDE: Yeah?
JOE: How 'bout dinner tonight?
DEDE: Yeah, uh, okay.
(Joe smiles for the first time since we've met him, and closes the door again)
DEDE: Wow. What a change.
MR. WATURI: Who does he think he is?

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