Old Lady Movie Night: “Volcano”

Very important question, here: do you remember VolcanoPlease notice how I did not use an actual question mark because this is obviously more than a statement — of course you remember Volcano. It was majestic. It was terrifying. It was my “favourite movie” for the entire summer of 1997 until I saw Men In Black in theatres on my 12th birthday.

So yeah, I’d say it holds some serious clout.

I bring you Volcano today because a) there’s no way we can follow up Harry Potter with anything other than an iconic disaster film, and b) Gaby Hoffmann’s on Girls, so HELLO, tie-in. But what’s that? Is it an earthquake? Signalling the beginnings of a volcano attempting to push its way up through the streets of Los Angeles? I think it is. Or at least I hope so, because otherwise I’ve gotten this movie all wrong.

1. First things first: I wanted to be Gaby Hoffmann in this movie

And frankly, I think we all still want to be Gaby Hoffmann. I know I wanted to be her in Now and Then, and then I was super jealous that she played Tommy Lee Jones’ daughter when I had a crush on him (and I know that’s a very weird juxtaposition, but listen — I was 11). Anyway, she’s a cool teen in this movie, and I genuinely want the wardrobe she has. Also, if I ever grew my hair that long it would look like I have no hair. (I have the fine hair of an Irish/Lithuanian person — and I also can’t go in the sun.) So what I’m saying is, Gaby Hoffmann if you’re interested in friendship I am GAME.

2. Also, my love of Tommy Lee Jones knows no bounds

Have I told you guys about my Tommy Lee Jones crush? I hope so, because it’s very defining, and we all deserve to know about it. To put it plainly: I love Tommy Lee Jones. I loved him in The Fugitive, I loved him in Men in Black, I love  him in Volcano, and I loved him when he stared with anger at the stage during the Golden Globes and created this meme:

I love Tommy Lee Jones. (And if he were younger, I’m sure we could date. I’m SURE.)

3. So onto the movie: probably the worst L.A. tourism film ever made

Yet we all still want to go there? I mean, obviously: look how lovely L.A. looks in the beginning. So sunny! All the radios and morning television shows! Such reasonable temperatures! It doesn’t hurt that in real life Los Angeles does NOT contain an active volcano, so what you see in the beginning of the movie is actually pretty true to life. Minus, of course, Tommy Lee Jones and Don Cheadle working for the city in any capacity. (Because they are award-winning actors.) (FYI.)

4. But IS Tommy Lee Jones a bad dad?

I remember watching this as a kid and thinking (because my Dad has to go to work when there’s a snowstorm, or he gets called in — he works for the region we live in) “Well yeah, of course he has to go into work — that’s his job?” I mean, he technically needs to work to feed his kid? Am I getting it wrong here? But I just remember my Dad having to go into work. Like, that was what had to happen if he got called into work. And it’s not like Tommy Lee Jones LIVES at work — he had to deal with an earthquake. And yes, Gaby Hoffmann is afraid of the earthquake, but hey — I am afraid of tornadoes. And I have had to brave many a tornado warning alone because my parents were at work. I AM JUST SAYING some people have to work. And in all fairness, Gaby’s babysitter seemed awesome?

Also, I was never that jazzed to hang out with my Dad. Like, I love him. But I was never like, “YOU DISAPPOINTED ME.” I’d just kind of be like, “Oh okay, well can I go over to so-and-so’s for dinner, then?” (IS THIS JUST ME?) (And yes, tooootally aware that Tommy Lee Jones is on “vacation.”)

5. Then things get d-a-r-k

Like, people succumb to a major explosion?! And one minute we’re watching Tommy Lee Jones cook eggs, and the next he is touching a charred corpse. THANKS FOR THE SEGWAY. Also, what up, Anne Heche, you are absolutely trespassing, I think.

6. Anne Heche’s character is out of control

WELL, hear me out. So Anne Heche is checking how those city workers died and that’s when it hits us: SHE IS A SCIENTIST WHAT IS SHE DOING THERE. So instead of investigating with a team, she and her friend (who I thinkwas in Twister?) STEAL UNIFORMS and TRESPASS IN A CRIME SCENE. And okay, fine, her friend was absolutely interested in how and why this explosion happened, but when things started to get majorly intense down in the tunnel, you’d THINK they’d think, “I think it’s time for us to turn around and call it a day.” But no. No, they want readings. Of the WARMTH. As if the FLAMES didn’t give it away. Maybe I’d make a horrible scientist (yes), but FRIENDS. GET OUT OF THE TUNNEL.

7. But then it gets worse

Just so much worse. So Anne Heche’s friend falls into an enormous volcano crack, and as soon as Anne Heche comes upstairs, the ENTIRE CITY just goes to hell. I’m talking the Le Brea tar pits boil, and then . . . tar things happen? (#science) AND THEN the steam grates begin launching into the air and hitting things, pre-cursing the LAVA BOMBS. Girlfriend can’t even mourn her BFF. She is forced to deal with the IMMINENT DISASTER about to strike the sunny city of dreams.

8. I will say, congratulations to Tommy Lee Jones for bringing his daughter to work

Or something. The important thing is that he brings her with him on his adventures. (Until she has to go to the hospital, but we deal with that later.) I remember being 11 and thinking, “Wow there is NO WAY my Dad would be that cool, calm, and collected in an emergency.” He wouldn’t be panicking, but he’d do what us Donahues do best: become filled with rage in order to deal with crises. Barking orders and swearing a lot, mostly. But unlike Jones, we would be driving in the opposite direction of Los Angeles. Because that’s ALSO the Donahue way.

9. The underground subway plot if horrifying, though

Does everybody remember that? So there’s this guy, Stan, and he works for the subway (“he works at Subway and is always fresh” – Anne T. Donahue, comedian), and he refuses to close the subway systems despite the influx of earthquakes. BUT THEN a subway car gets trapped underground as lava begins to spread, and Stan and his friends walk down BY FOOT, then he saves the passed-out driver, but MELTS TO DEATH IN A THING OF LAVA IN THE PROCESS. Can we talk about distressing? Because it’s distressing. I remember just making the Peggy Olson “yikes” face during this entire ordeal, being 11 and thinking, “Is this what it means to be an adult because if so I want no part in it.”

10. Never have I cared about anything as much as I cared about the trapped dog

And in the meantime, we’ve got some serious drama going on throughout Los Angeles as, well, a volcano begins to rise out of the ground and lava spreads everywhere. And among this INCREDIBLY RACIST police officer (we’ll get there next!) a dog gets trapped inside a home, and we’re all almost forced to watch it die. But good news! It does NOT. And I, at age 11, am left thinking, “Well who cares about the rest because everything is fine now.”

11. But that cop, what the hell?

I will say this movie contains probably one of the most racist police officers in a movie not about race politics that I have ever seen. This white, racist police officer arrests a black man IN THE MIDDLE OF A VOLCANO SITUATION because the man was trying to SAVE HIS NEIGHBOURHOOD. The guy’s just like, “Can you please help me? This is ridiculous, everyone is ignoring our neighbourhood and it’s burning down around us” and this cop’s like “THAT’S IT! You’re coming downtown! Eventually! Like, if it’s not a lava pile by then.” And every other cop is like “…Dude. MAYBE think about getting on a plane once this is through and just going ANYWHERE ELSE, particularly to a solitary island where you can be alone forever because you are very racist and horrible.” But then it works out because they push a firetruck together? I won’t lie to you: I have no idea how or why this subplot exists. Or why it didn’t end with the police officer begging for forgiveness for being such a monster (after he un-arrests the guy, and the guy COMES BACK TO HELP HIM). Just . . . yikes.

12. And then Gaby Hoffmann burns her leg, and her dad’s like “girl, I have to stay at work” and she’s like “are you joking right now”

And he is NOT joking right now because he ABSOLUTELY piles her into a car with a doctor she’s never met, and two firefighters suffering MAJOR injuries. And then she gets stuck babysitting these two kids, and one ALMOST DIES IN AN EXPLOSION, but thankfully, she positions herself perfectly as to avoid catastrophe. (Like, the building actually just falls down around her — but not on her. Lucky.)

13. On the flip side, the doctor is engaged to the worst man alive?

Do you guys remember this? This doctor who is very good at her job and has an actual human beating heart sets up a temporary hospital and commits to treating all these injured people who are, well, suffering greatly at the hands of the volcano. But her fiancée (or husband?) is like, “No — they don’t need you. Screw them! They’re true poors!” And I THINK she breaks up with him? It’s actually not quite clear. But let’s pretend. Because she was too smart for him, the horrible sociopathic robot. (Was he Patrick Bateman, maybe?)

14. All of this would be too overwhelming for me

All of it. First, I would be overwhelmed if I was Gaby Hoffmann and I was suffering from burns while being forced to look after some strange kids, and had no idea where my Dad was, and hated earthquakes to begin with. Second, I would be overwhelmed if I were the doctor, attached to the worst man alive. Third, I would be overwhelmed if I was Anne Heche because NO ONE listens to her until she is literally like, “IT IS RAINING ASH. DO YOU BELIEVE ME YET.” And lastly, I would be overwhelmed if I was Tommy Lee Jones because THEN he and Anne Heche have to decide how to funnel lava into the ocean. By this point, I’d just be too tired. This would be a classic, “Throw my hands in the air and never look back” situation for me, frankly. I get overwhelmed when I have too many articles to write, and honestly after the second earthquake in two days, we’d be moving to Ontario, Canada where yes, tornado warnings and the polar vortex are frequent, but I can confirm there are no active volcanoes.


As it does! Always! In these movies, and THANK GOODNESS. Scientists just putting their brains together and making it rain; scientists falling in love. (They fell in love, right?) And now, according to this movie, Los Angeles now has an active volcano in the middle of it — which, I guess, means everybody should probably move. (Or not! Your call!)

Also, Gaby Hoffmann, I hope your leg gets better (in this movie). And may Mount Wilshire behave forever. And may I never love anything as much as I love this disaster movie about a volcano that strikes Los Angeles. Every time a bell rings, an angel gives us a volcano.

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