There aren’t many onscreen duos that work as better partners than Tom Hanks And Mega Ryan. You Have Letters And No sleep in Seattle not only are they two excellent romantic comedies from brilliant female filmmakers, but they serve as perfect personifications of what the genre can be. Sticking to a certain formula can work if the actors have chemistry that lends authenticity and evokes emotion, and both films end in impactful moments where Hanks and Ryan commit to emotional lines, even if one is about recovering from loss and the other about e-mail scam. Romantic comedies are sadly often denied theatrical release now, and it’s easy to wax poetic about what the genre looks like at its best when its frequent performing co-stars are that good; Hanks still makes the occasional comedy, but they rarely feature a romantic connection that is as intimate as it is touching. Those looking to recapture the same magic need to watch the first collaboration between the two, because Joe Versus the Volcano is one of the craziest rom-coms ever made, yet somehow one of the most effective. Who would have thought that a film centered on a descent into hell would provide so much laughter, heart, and optimism?


Joe Versus the Volcano centers on clerical worker Joe Banks (Hanks), whose generally weary world days are followed by a series of illnesses and extensive medical visits to cure him of depression, isolation, and a series of seemingly chronic illnesses. In the first sign of the film’s dark comedic side, Banks’ doctor informs him that while there is nothing clinically wrong with him, he has an incurable disease called a “brain cloud”, which leaves him only months to live. The notion of a “brain cloud” itself is one of the ridiculous ones that feels lifted from a Saturday Night Live sketch, which makes it even funnier when determined by Dr. Ellison (Robert Stacks), Banks’ medical adviser, said that all of his symptoms were due to previous injuries in his previous career as a firefighter. With no hope of survival, Ellison left Banks with a public note to use the last five or six months of his life in a personally satisfying way, but failed to go into detail or provide any practical knowledge. It takes half-assed schemes and a trio of Meg Ryans to change Joe Versus the Volcano from sad dark comedies to something far more heartwarming.

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Meg Ryan’s power

Joe Versus the Volcano

Ryan’s skills are often underestimated, as Hanks has attained a level of success and acclaim that is almost unparalleled among any contemporary film star today. However, it was Ryan’s appearance that changed Joe Versus the Volcano from absurdity to sincerity. In a bold acting move, Ryan plays three separate characters throughout the film; this is not an uncommon technique, but he does play a distinct exaggerated caricature Eddie Murphy in the Come to America. It was three different women who impacted Joe’s life and guided him on his strange journey down into a state of madness which is understandable, given the shocking nature and lack of detail regarding his condition. It’s almost as if the three roles sum up the range of reactions one might have when hearing such disturbing news.

Ryan’s first of these roles was as DeeDee, Banks’ former co-worker whom he realized he harbored a secret crush on after her diagnosis. With self-esteem worries far behind him, Banks decides to ask him out, and their opening date is as direct and charming as it gets. No sleep in Seattle or You Have Letters. Unfortunately, their chemistry was short-lived, reflecting some people’s inability to cope with a struggling couple when DeeDee cut short the relationship that was expected to make it a doomed prospect. A similar, if less extensive, role appears in Ryan’s second appearance as Angelica, a socialite who acts relatively indifferent to Banks’ mental health issues that help her reach her father’s boat. It’s a brief window into the life of the uncaring rich class that separates Ryan from DeeDee; however, Angelica played an important role in introducing Banks to his sister Patricia Graysmith, the third woman to influence Joe’s life that ultimately pushed him in the right direction.

Tom Hanks And Meg Ryan Are Sincere And Funny

Writer-director John Patrick Shanley must have one of the most unique track records of any major Hollywood filmmaker. After winning an Oscar for writing Crazyhe would go on to write and direct riveting period pieces Hesitant, as well as the recent romantic comedies Wild Mountain Thymea film so strange that it requires extensive analysis. Joe Versus the Volcano much stranger and broader comedy, but it deals with many of the same truths about human nature that run through all of Stanley’s work. Equally confusing, Joe’s decision to actually dove headfirst into a volcano to retrieve precious minerals for Patricia’s father, Samuel Harvey (Lloyd’s Bridge), makes sense in his twisted state of wrestling with a disease no one can relate to; he is offered the resources he needs to enjoy his final days if he can complete his mission, and at this point, Banks has nothing to lose. However, Ryan gives him one last thing to invest as Patricia and Banks start to fall for each other during a trip where he literally launches himself into hell.

Joe Versus the Volcano going from queer to emotionally honest at incredible speed; after a sequence on a volcano with decent production design and visuals Joe Dante or John Carpenter, Ryan and Hanks exchange lines about pursuing their love to the bitter end that almost brings tears. The subsequent revelation that Joe was misdiagnosed doesn’t feel like the end of rejection, but rather a reward for their continued optimism. This was the beautiful, absurd and utterly charming first collaboration that would give 1990s cinema some of its sweetest and most sensitive moments.

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