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It's a gift to be simple... provided you have the means
September 27, 2007 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Starbucks saved his life, and now Tom Hanks is saving his bank account. A story of a middle-aged man with a successful career in advertising, was fired from his high-paying job, was divorced by his wife, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and found himself getting back to basics working for $10.50/hour at Starbucks, finding himself, and loving it. How does he manage to deal with such a huge downgrade from his previously life? Well, turns out it doesn't matter too much, as it's soon to be a movie starring Tom Hanks.
posted by Tommy Gnosis (77 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it still called "product placement" when the whole damn movie is an ad?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:53 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is the third Tom Hanks movie I can think of off the top of my head with such an explicit corporate connection. Well done, sire. Well done.
posted by dismas at 2:57 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Some people aren't content living as if they're in a cliche novel; they want to live as if they're in a cliche novel that you could buy at the airport.
posted by hermitosis at 2:59 PM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm still not going to Starbucks.

...anyway, I live in Louisiana where we have Community Coffee. Once you drink CC's there's no need for anything else.
posted by grimcity at 3:02 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tom Hanks is the post-modern Robert Johnson.
posted by felix betachat at 3:04 PM on September 27, 2007


Was the tumor a Venti, or a Grande?
posted by fandango_matt at 3:05 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Venti-suck.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:06 PM on September 27, 2007


man, make this guy stop, seriously--he is so everywhere he's blocking out the sun. Besides, didn't burnt out ex yalies used to get jobs picking apples? What interests Tom Hanks about a guy sliding into the dumb snooty barrista job he would've had if he'd been on scholarship at Yale? If he was so on fire to write a book he ought to've become a WalMart greeter or a missionary or joined the merchant marine like the nth caller on the umptyninth NPR show on his arresting life choice I heard this week. I ain't buying his Brooklyn book of wonder I tell you what.
posted by Don Pepino at 3:06 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the movie is set in the time back when the Starbucks workers actually contributed something (positive or negative) to the coffee, or later after the compnay instituted the superautomatic espresso machines. No matter, as the change allowed me to get one of their unloved Mazzer Super Jolly grinders for cheap.
posted by exogenous at 3:09 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you stare into the abyss and determine that your happiness stems from simplicity, dignity and humility, then you don't fucking write a book and sell the rights to movie for it. I dunno. To each his own, but that just struck me as kind of grim.

I heard him on NPR last night and was actually a bit moved by the story... I looked past the book thing, but I didn't listen in long enough to learn about the movie deal. This is pretty gross, but maybe that's just my small-mindedness.
posted by psmealey at 3:10 PM on September 27, 2007


The Double Short Americanos of Wrath.
posted by psmealey at 3:11 PM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


So now he'll have been a whore for AOL, Starbucks, and FedEx.

It may just turn out that his artistic credibility peaked with Joe Versus The Volcano.
posted by Optamystic at 3:14 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Zen and the Art of Espresso Machine Maintenance
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:14 PM on September 27, 2007


I'm sure his New Yorker contributer father had NOTHING to do with helping this douchebag get published.
posted by spec80 at 3:15 PM on September 27, 2007


Joe Versus The Volcano

Best Tom Hanks movie ever (well, maybe tied with Bachelor Party).
posted by psmealey at 3:16 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tourist: What kind of berry is a triberry?
Barista: What?
Tourist: You're selling a triberry muffin. Well, what's a triberry? I've never heard of that before.
Barista: It has blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry in it. They call it triberry because it has three kinds of berries in it.
Tourist: So there aren't any triberries in it?
Barista: No.
Tourist: Then why do you call it a triberry muffin? That's false advertising.
Barista: As I explained, it's called that because it has three berries in it.
Tourist: But none of those berries are triberries?
Barista: No. There is no such thing as a triberry.
Tourist: I don't understand.
Barista: Look, do you want the muffin or not?
Tourist: I don't think so. I don't want to eat anything unless I know what it is first.
Barista: So what can I get you?
Tourist: Do you have a donut?
Barista: No.
Tourist: Never mind. [leaves]
Barista: Dumbass.
posted by bam at 3:18 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


I wish you could taser shitty movies.
posted by phaedon at 3:18 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


aside from the anti-corp rant (perhaps the movie will use a generic "coffee store" ... naaaah ...), i'd just like to say that it's too bad most people (let alone privileged, rich guys) don't learn this lesson until they are about to die.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:20 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I think the bigger news would be if someone found out that the advertising business DIDN'T suck out their soul," she typed with a sigh, trying to convince herself that she could make it through 2 more hours of designing ads exclaiming "Now! Save more on dandruff shampoo!"
posted by miss lynnster at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2007


These ad guys are pretty slick at turning personal misfortune into financial success. No, see, you're the casino that gives. As the boldest experiment in advertising history, you give us our money back. You know, I'm in advertising. These are professional opinions you're getting.
posted by billysumday at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I’ll see this. But ONLY if it has Meg Ryan in it. She looks amazingly like porn star Ginger Lynn who I’d also like to have in a threesome with a dolphin and....wait, am I typing all this?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:22 PM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Humility and movies have nothing to do with each other. At least not when they're starring Tom Hanks.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:26 PM on September 27, 2007


Puke.

No, wait...

PUKE!
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


But maybe that's just my small-mindedness.

Agreed.
posted by dhammond at 3:32 PM on September 27, 2007


I wonder if the movie is set in the time back when the Starbucks workers actually contributed something (positive or negative) to the coffee, or later after the compnay instituted the superautomatic espresso machines.

Amen. If this man's life depended on properly-extracted espresso and drinkable microfoamed milk instead of that horrible meringue that they serve, he'd be as dead as Alfred Peet. Dead, I tell ya.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:33 PM on September 27, 2007


I'm still not going to Starbucks.

Impressive. I look forward to hearing about how you don't watch television and don't even own one, man.
posted by dhammond at 3:33 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


dhammond, are you here to promote a movie?
posted by hermitosis at 3:40 PM on September 27, 2007


Let's have an argument about whether Starbucks coffee sucks, and if so, how much. Together, like we used to. Like a family.
posted by nanojath at 3:41 PM on September 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


How Starbucks Saved My Life

Chapter 1

It's so much easier, in the final analysis, to hate the motherfucker getting all fired up over a poorly prepared Grande Triple Whuffie Mochachino Franglista Americano than it is to hate yourself for being that motherfucker.
posted by shmegegge at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2007 [7 favorites]


Former ad exec working at Starbucks? It's probably too much to hope the movie will be called Vanilla Bullshit.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:45 PM on September 27, 2007


On my first reading of the post, I thought the Starbucks-guy was ALSO named "Tom Hanks", and I thought, "WOW, that's really amazing!"
posted by TheClonusHorror at 3:45 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Okay, I'll start nanojath. Starbucks is a tool of the devil. And their coffee's all bitter & stuff.

Okay, back to my dandruff shampoo ad now.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:45 PM on September 27, 2007


"How Starbucks Saved My Life (by Letting Me Work There Long Enough to Pen Some Trite-Ass Bullshit About How the "Slums Got So Much Soul" Knowing Full Well That This Wouldn't Be My Life for Long and I'd Probably Get a Book Deal Out of It and Possibly Sell the Rights to Some Hollywood Idiot)"
posted by 23skidoo at 3:46 PM on September 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


23skidoo wins.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 3:47 PM on September 27, 2007


Starbucks' pastries and muffins are entirely too sweet, and sometimes their sandwiches are a bit frozen. EVIL!
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 3:59 PM on September 27, 2007


psmealey, that was exactly what I was going to say.
If working at Starbucks was so all-fulfilling and soul-saving, he needn't have sold a book and movie from the experience.
Has he been on Oprah yet?
posted by chococat at 4:07 PM on September 27, 2007


Hey! I thought I heard about this on Metafilter a while back. I was right!
posted by lampoil at 4:16 PM on September 27, 2007


Not quite a double - maybe a double-tall.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:19 PM on September 27, 2007


Coming in 2010. Tom Hanks as the GEICO gecko in "Saved in Fifteen Minutes."
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:26 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Zen and the Art of Espresso Machine Maintenance

The Teachings of Michael Gates Gill: A Venti Way of Knowledge.
posted by ericb at 4:33 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, forgive me if I don't get too excited about some white collar washout descending to work among the plebes like it's some kind of wellness retreat.

"And then we mopped at the end of the night! It was ever so quaint!"

I've been working bullshit service jobs all my life, and this "gift of simple" doesn't seem so poignant and instructive when it's all you've ever known. Right now, I'm scrambling to escape that dead-end life, cause all the service industry does to anyone is grind them up and spit them out. Am I supposed to feel good about busting my ass for chump change cause this guy thinks putting on an apron makes him zen?

What a fucking tourist.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2007 [14 favorites]


I think I'm confused. This commercial for Starbucks...you have to pay to see it?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2007


they want to live as if they're in a cliche novel that you could buy at the airport.

Not I. I want to live as if I'm in Penthouse Forum. Failing that, Moon Mullins.

(I'm also a bit miffed that latte frothers make more than I do.)
posted by jonmc at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2007


If this is big news, how come both Tom Hanks' bond price and the movie stock in question are going down over at the Hollywood Stock Exchange? And how come every time I buy something at HSX I lose H$ on it? Thank God this ain't real money. I'd have jumped out a window.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:42 PM on September 27, 2007


EatTheWeak, you know what's the best part? All the other employees at Starbucks are most likely going to have to push sales of his book and then the dvd. That's going to make all those baristas feel so much better knowing that their DM and SM are expecting them to sell a certain number of this book that's basically making their hard work look like an interesting vacation.
posted by zorrine at 5:51 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm also a bit miffed that latte frothers make more than I do.

The benefits thing is nothing to sneeze at (so to speak). I'm not too proud to admit that I worked for the mermaid when I was between gigs in the 90s. It helped me out a bit when I was getting trained up on programming languages. Working retail sucks, no doubt, but there are far worse places you can do it.

As to the topic at hand, however, this guy is exactly what EatTheWeek calls him: a tourist. He's a total fucking phony. It's all very dramatic and compelling that he went through what he did, but it's hard to see his "path to enlightenment" as anything other than research for, not even a story, but an ad campaign.
posted by psmealey at 5:57 PM on September 27, 2007


zorrine - !!! I hadn't thought of that! But you're right - they'll have the movie soundtrack playing in the store! they'll have to wear some kind of promo pin on their hats and aprons! In one move, every employee becomes a movie mascot!
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:07 PM on September 27, 2007


I used to work at Tower Records. My store was one of the last to close in the country. Might actually have been the last, I don't know. I worked there at 17, and then seasonally for years, and the entire time I was there an older dude worked there full time every day. He lived cheaply, most of his paycheck going toward storing his intensely large record collection. Then Tower Records went under and the store got closed. Just 10 minutes ago, I was riding the bus home from work and didn't notice he was sitting next to me until he got off the bus and rooted around in a public garbage can for whatever he needed. Where's his movie, hollywood?
posted by shmegegge at 6:09 PM on September 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


Everybody hates a tourist
Especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh

posted by naoko at 6:31 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, every other obnoxious customer is going to be all "So, when's your book with movie option starring Tom Hanks coming out, huh?" That'll be fun. And by fun, I mean will make me want to do harmful things to someone.
posted by zorrine at 6:51 PM on September 27, 2007


I work in a bike shop doing inventory. I used to work in actuarial consulting. The chief mechanic is a former chartered accountant, and one of the floor sales staff is a former union lawyer. This shit happens everywhere, we don't need a BS movie about Starfucks to find inspiration.
posted by randomstriker at 6:53 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Fuck Tom Hanks and his commercials. I read an article a while back about the making of Cast Away, the script of which was written in close consultation with FedEx. The screenwriters got what they were pretty sure was a close-to-final draft down and submitted it to the FedEx suits. They came back and said they liked it, but...well, was there some way Hanks could wind up marooned on the island without the plane crashing? Because a plane crash would, you know, reflect badly on FedEx.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:55 PM on September 27, 2007


I posted about this last year (not complaining, I realize it's a different set of links, from before the book was out). At that point, Gus Van Sant was set to direct, but I don't see anything about him in these links. I wonder if he backed out.
posted by rottytooth at 7:13 PM on September 27, 2007


I want to see a motion picture about a guy who used to work in advertising using a stint at Starbucks as a way of getting back into advertising in the form of a motion picture. In other words, this film with a self-referential ending.

Except I don't really want to see it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:26 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


As to the topic at hand, however, this guy is exactly what EatTheWeek calls him: a tourist.

If he's a tourist, that puts him in some pretty fine company, from figures from literature going way back into ancient mythology to a good chunk of the planet -- we're all tourists to the extent that we haven't either settled into commitments or communities or become stuck in ruts that bind us to the same situation, and even then you can get bumped out into some interesting journeys in a hurry.

And the common wisdom is that tourism itself can be pretty enlightening. In my experience, it's true, within limits. So even to the extent the label's apt, I'm not sure it works as criticism.

Unless the tourist does transgress the aforementioned limitations of the experience, one of which is that he has to realize the difference between his limited experience with a place, and the experience of someone who's long been stuck there by sheer force of circumstance, or the experience of someone who's really chosen to make a commitment and metaphorically (or literally) marry the place. To the degree he tries to talk the later talk without really having walked the walk, the tourism becomes contemptible. That's fair criticism. But the label itself, not so much.

I've only heard the NPR interview, so I can't say if he does that in the book yet, but I'm not sure Gill's really made those mistakes. It doesn't sound to me like he was merely a dilettante doing a Morgan Spurlock 30 day production, it sounds like he needed the job. And it doesn't seem like he's really claiming to tell the story of every proletarian retail worker who's never been a big ad exec... rather, it sounded like he had an experience with taking a relatively ordinary job after living in a pretty different world -- and found some satisfaction and beauty in it. The book doesn't sound like a celebration of retail work life... more yet another journey through contrast and change.

I don't doubt his former context made the experience different for him than most retail workers, or that his connections allowed him to turn his experience into a book, and apparently a movie, and therefore a rung up into yet another life. I'm not sure that makes his journey less authentic, all it does is make it less like someone else's experience like EatTheWeak's or shmegegge's co-worker.

Of course, maybe I'll read the book and find out I'm wrong on all these points -- that he really didn't need the money, benefits, or association/dignity of labor, that he didn't keep at it long, that his observations about his experience don't ring true, that he claims more understanding than is his due from the territory he's covered. We'll see.
posted by weston at 7:43 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound to me like he was merely a dilettante doing a Morgan Spurlock 30 day production, it sounds like he needed the job.

I don't disagree. The point was, though, on his journey of self-discovery and finding all that beauty and dignity and whatnot, he turned it into a book and movie deal. So, so much for beauty and dignity and whatnot when there's MONEY TO BE MADE!!! AMIRITE? The last chapter in this story makes his revelations (which also seemed genuine to me) trite and mostly meaningless.

Also, I was a little put off by his surprise that the proles could speak to each in civilized tones, whereas he had made a career out of berating his juniors at JWT. Makes the guy seem like even more of an effete wanker, if that's possible.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 7:50 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


dhammond, are you here to promote a movie?

No, it sounds kind of ghey, to be perfectly blunt, and I don't plan on seeing it.

But I don't get the hatin' in a lot of the comments. So much cynicism. What is seriously so fucked up about writing a corny Oprah book that you call a guy a "douchebag"?
posted by dhammond at 7:54 PM on September 27, 2007


* still hasn't been in a Starbucks *

* gloats *
posted by yhbc at 7:58 PM on September 27, 2007


I won't call Michael Gates Gill a douchebag. More power to him. Tom Hanks, on the other hand, would felch the rotting husk of a horse if it kept him and his pious mug in the public conscience.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:29 PM on September 27, 2007


Before you guys go off callig "Cast Away" a big ad for FedEx, keep in mind that your typical FedEx advertisement does not usually:

* Destroy a widebody aircraft
* Fly the wrong way (Memphis to Moscow wouldn't have flown West!)
* Kill the entire flight crew
* Not manage to deliver one single package, except for one that wound up back at the sender.

"Cast Away" would have been the worst FedEx ad ever!

Also, I'm not surprised to see this turned into a movie. I can't even remember how many times the SFGate has run some "I was an IT manager, now I am a farmer and I'm happier!" kind of article.

For what it's worth, I am totally fed up with 'information technology' as well. I'm going to be going back to school to work in emergency medicine... at a substantial pay cut.

Maybe the bottom line is "money isn't everything."
posted by drstein at 8:32 PM on September 27, 2007


Clearly a case of the Observer Effect at work.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:34 PM on September 27, 2007


Who called Cormac McCarthy a douchebag?
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:38 PM on September 27, 2007


As I read through this thread, I formed an astonishingly perceptive and erudite opinion on Tom Hanks' oeuvre in relation to corporate self-presentation which I am only forgoing the pleasure of sharing with you all on account of the strange and somewhat overpowering desire I currently have to save more on dandruff shampoo
posted by Sparx at 2:07 AM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


destein, you're confusing "product placement" with advertisement. Please pay attention in the future when commenting. OK? Thanks. Bye.
posted by Eekacat at 2:19 AM on September 28, 2007


I'm in favor of this movie, no matter how trite or blue, because the core message -- "have a life, for crissake" -- is so important. It took 39 years to stop chasing the dollar and start chasing my dreams. I'm glad it wasn't 59 years. Maybe someone else will wake up at 29 or 24 or 19 thanks to this movie. Maybe you'll wake up after reading this. What's it take to start living again if you aren't living now? Live dangerously. Explore the boundaries. Go outside and play, dammit.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:49 AM on September 28, 2007


Is that really the message, seanmpuckett? If it leaves out the part where he cashes in at the end and the cycle begins anew, I suppose. I guess we'll see.
posted by psmealey at 4:54 AM on September 28, 2007


destein, you're confusing "product placement" with advertisement. Please pay attention in the future when commenting. OK? Thanks. Bye.

People call these movies ads all the time. Like, for instance, the very first comment in this thread. Also see the previous thread. If there's confusion, it's not on drstein's part.
posted by lampoil at 5:33 AM on September 28, 2007


Bad Actor + bad coffee = bad movie?

I guess I pass on this one. But honestly, IMHO the coffee at Starbucks is not very good and I don't like the attitude of the company.

Best coffee I ever had? Try cafe Einstein on your next Berlin trip.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:05 AM on September 28, 2007


"Go outside and play, dammit."
Or play inside. Paddle in warm soy froth 39 hours a week. But LIVE, for crissick.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:31 AM on September 28, 2007


* drinks yhbc's leftover venti coffee *

* gloats back*
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:49 AM on September 28, 2007


Yeah, remember how Hanks totally shilled for lawyers in 'Philadelphia' ?

BTW, the must listen cover of that Pulp song is done by Joe Jackson and William Shatner. Seriously.

My barber says he can tell who drinks Starbucks regularly because when he cuts their hair, the sickening smell of burnt coffee beans smacks him in the face like the ice-cold hand of the devil himself.
posted by neat-o at 7:35 AM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Cast Away" would have been the worst FedEx ad ever!

Did you see the film? The first five minutes were like a FedEx training video...
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2007


Ditto on the Shatner cover of "Common People" - sheer brilliance.
posted by naoko at 1:29 PM on September 28, 2007


I'm trying to remember the last time I actually enjoyed a Tom Hanks movie... hmmm Splash maybe. Though I did recently spend a rather pleasant Sunday afternoon laughing all the way through You've Got Mail. But probably not for the reasons the film-makers intended - 'Christ Meg, do you have jerk your head around like a broken puppet every time you type something!'

The only reason I'd be watching this if the entire running time is spent throwing cups of hot coffee in Hank's face whilst the ghost of John Candy screams 'Sellout!' at him.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:06 PM on September 28, 2007


The Shatner version is nice and all, but I'm going with the original Pulp version.
posted by Artw at 3:10 PM on September 28, 2007


dhammond Impressive. I look forward to hearing about how you don't watch television and don't even own one, man.

You're way off... I'm just saying that our local stuff is way better. A little local pride, that's all.

And televisions I have... extended cable to boot!
posted by grimcity at 11:37 AM on September 29, 2007


Has anyone that's posted in this thread actually read the book?

Just curious...
posted by incurable at 2:25 PM on September 29, 2007


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