The White Album

Doug Fretty '05, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2005

EXT. ROYAL HAWIIAN HOTEL -- BALCONY -- DAY

An idyllic Honolulu midday. A soft wind billows a translucent curtain, through which we glimpse a cool, tiled bedroom. On the veranda sits JOAN, blue-and-white sun dress, her thin hair bobbed around her neck. She casually reads a magazine, HONOLULU.

She lets loose a joyous GUFFAW. After a beat, her husband, JOHN, tall and rugged, strolls through the bedroom, joins her on the veranda.

JOHN. I'm sure I'm wrong, but did I hear you laughing?

JOAN. Listen to this. A complaint to big media in Honolulu. Anti-establishment Commie draft-dodgers that they are, right?

JOHN. That's the complaint?

JOAN. All right. (Reading) "When President Johnson recently came to Honolulu, the morning paper's banner read something like, 'Pickets to Greet President.' Would it not have been just as newsworthy to say, 'Warm Aloha to Greet President'?"

John cracks up.

JOHN. Believe me, I heard stranger things from my editors in New York. Ghastly. Let me see that.

Joan hands him the magazine, pushes out a long sigh.

JOAN. Let's stay here the rest of the week, John. Nothing seems to happen to me when I'm here.

John thinks it over.

JOAN. Who's at the house?

JOHN. Hal. Bessie. Marie.

JOAN. Marie? I thought she called Franklin the "senseless killing neighborhood."

JOHN. Well, I think she's on the outs with her husband again. Then there's Vern, and probably some of his fellow Zapatistas...

JOAN. You see? No one will even notice we're gone.

We hear a SCREAM in the street, followed by instantaneous CHATTER.

Joan and John leap up, lean over the balcony. In the STREET, a car jerkily slows down, stops. The cars behind HONK, but it just sits there. From hotels and apartments around the Royal, we hear CRYING, nervous TALKING. Most of it is indistinct, but we make out a VOICE.

VOICE. It's another Dallas! Another Dallas!

In many windows across the street, television sets buzz on. Joan and John scurry into the bedroom, flip on the 16-inch black-and-white on the dresser.

On the screen, we see POLICE clearing the lobby of a hotel. We get CLOSE-UPS of the BYSTANDERS, some of them in tears.

ANCHOR (V.O.). We don't have any more information about his condition. All we can tell you is that he was shot in the chest. The police are not releasing any information at this time about a suspect...

Their two-year-old daughter QUINTANA enters, holding a well-chewed toy. She stares curiously at them. They stare back, but in horror.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. ROYAL HAWIIAN HOTEL -- BAR -- AFTERNOON

The bar is packed with TOURISTS, CONSTRUCTION WORKERS, BUSINESSMEN. They stand at attention, watching the anchor on the television in the corner.

ANCHOR....something that few of us could have imagined possible at the start of this peaceful day in Los Angeles. Democratic hopeful Robert Kennedy is confirmed dead...

Waves of shock through the bar.

ANCHOR. ..at 2:38 PM today. The police have a man in custody. They say he is the shooter, but they are not divulging...

Everyone is standing, staring, hugging. Everyone except Joan, who sits at a table in the back, nursing a glass of Bourbon.

MUSIC CUE: "REVOLUTION 9."

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. ROYAL HAWIIAN HOTEL -- BEDROOM -- NIGHT

Joan and John lie in bed without covers. He sleeps. She tosses, moans.

She snorts awake, her eyes half-open and frantically moving. She reaches out for the translucent curtain, which covers and uncovers the window in the breeze.

She rises, as though sleepwalking. She stumbles toward the curtain. There's SOMETHING outside, across the street, but we can only glimpse it behind that billowing curtain.

A strong gust of wind pins the curtain to the wall. We can see clearly across the street: A NAKED WOMAN cowers on the ledge of the apartment building.

Joan SCREAMS. John bolts up, turns his head side to side.

The curtain blows back over the window, covering the Naked Woman.

JOAN. No!

She fights with the curtain ineptly. John tosses the covers off. Joan manages to part the curtain, to see across the street. The Naked Woman is gone! Joan SCREAMS again, runs onto the balcony. John runs after her.

Joan leans over the edge, searches the street below. The street is empty. No dead body of a Naked Woman.

John charily reaches for her. When his fingers touch her shoulders, she flinches. She CRIES quietly.

JOHN (Shaking head). Joan. Joan...

CUT TO: INTERIOR. DOCTOR'S STUDY -- LOS ANGELES -- DAY

Wearing her street clothes, Joan sits uncomfortably in a white chair. DR. TRUSTMAN sits opposite her, a pile of large white cards in his lap. Standing next to him is DR. STEM, his hands folded awkwardly in front of his crotch. Dr. Trustman holds up one of the cards.

TRUSTMAN. Tell me what you see here?

On the card is a photograph of a YOUNG GIRL gazing sadly at a violin.

JOAN. A girl. A violin.

TRUSTMAN. Yes, but what does it make you think of? Briefly.

JOAN. (Short pause) I think of a five-year-old girl, running along the center divide on Interstate 5. Her mother, Betty Lansdown Fouquet, put her there and drove away.

Dr. Trustman and Dr. Stem simultaneously turn their heads to one another.

JOAN (continues). The police had to pry the girl's fingers from the chain-linked fence when they finally caught up to her. It was all in the paper, I don't know, a few weeks ago.

CUT TO:

INrior EXAMINATION ROOM -- DAY

A NURSE reads a questionnaire. Her head drooping, Joan answers the questions listlessly.

NURSE. How old are you?

JOAN. Thirty-three.

NURSE. And your occupation?

JOAN. A writer, a journalist.

NURSE. Good. And are you currently menstruating?

Joan looks up from her hands, her eyebrows raised.

BACK TO: INTERIOR. DOCTOR'S STUDY -- SAME

Dr. Trustman holds up another card.

TRUSTMAN. And this one?

The card is a black-and-white print of Burchfield's dramatic "Night Wind" painting.

JOAN. Oh. I know that one. It's a Birchfield.

TRUSTMAN (Examining the print). Do you see birches here, Joan?

JOAN. No, it's just... That's the painter. Burchfield. He was, uh, he was from Ohio.

BACK TO:

INT. EXAMINATION ROOM -- SAME

The nurse takes notes on the questionnaire while a cigarette burns in Joan's hand.

NURSE. And what are the symptoms during these migraines?

JOAN. I can't do anything. Can't drive, can't talk. Um... I throw up. I'm photosensitive.

NURSE. And how often does this occur?

JOAN. Did you know that Ulysses S. Grant had a migraine at Appomattox courthouse? If it had been me that day, I would have been the one surrendering.

The nurse forces a smile.

NURSE. And... how often does this occur?

CUT TO:

INTERIOR DOCTOR'S STUDY -- DAY

John sits nervously in the white chair while Dr. Stem, standing behind the desk, consults his notes. After a long pause, Dr. Stem looks hard a John.

STEM. Our tests, Mr. Didion—

JOHN. Dunne.

STEM. Of course. Dunne. Our tests, Mr. Dunne, describe a personality in the process of hazardous deterioration.

John bites his lip.

STEM (CONTINUED). The obsessive compulsion, the projection, reaction-formation, the somatization, it all points to your wife's —

CUT TO:

INT. EXAMINATION ROOM -- SIMULTAENOUS

Joan sits, still holding the cigarette without smoking it, while Dr. Trustman lectures to her.

TRUSTMAN. — fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic, and depressive view of the world around you.

JOAN. Well, what do you recommend?

BACK TO:

INTERIOR DOCTOR'S STUDY -- SIMULTANEOUS

Dr. Stem hold up a small vial filled with clear liquid.

STEM. Histamine.

BACK TO:

INTERIOR EXAMINATION ROOM -- SIMULTANEOUS

Dr. Trustman holds up a small prescription bottle, pills inside.

TRUSTMAN. Elavil.

BACK TO:

INT. DOCTOR'S STUDY -- SIMULTANEOUS

Dr. Stem crosses around the desk, props a leg up on the corner.

STEM. Her condition veers further and further into a dependent, passive withdrawal. It's a wonder, Mr. Dunne, that she can even get out of bed in the morning.

MUSIC CUE: "ALL ALONG THE WATCH TOWER," GUITAR SOLO.

CUT TO: INT. BANQUET HALL -- DAY

Thunderous APPLAUSE. A banner reads, LOS ANGELES TIMES' WOMAN OF THE YEAR.

Beneath the sign, a stage. On the stage, twelve women sit behind a banquet table, facing the vast AUDIENCE. At the podium, a middle-aged female EMCEE in a smart suit with hard-sculpted hair BOOMS into the microphone.

EMCEE. Joan... Didion!

APPLAUSE. Joan stands, bows slightly, sits. The noise dies down.

EMCEE. Harriet... Burns!

The woman to Joan's left, HARRIET, repeats the ritual.

EMCEE. Debbie... Meyer!

DEBBIE, a gold metal around her neck, stands, soaks up the APPLAUSE.

EMCEE. Nancy... Reagan!

The crowd spontaneously stands and HOLLERS for NANCY, who waves politely.

CUT TO: INT. BANQUET HALL - LATER

People in the audience mill about the banquet floor. A gaggle of REPORTERS surrounds Nancy. With them is Joan, now equipped with a tape recorder. Her friend MARIE passes.

MARIE. Back to work so soon, Joan? But this is your day!

JOAN. It's the governor's wife, Marie.

NANCY (To one of the reporters). Of course it was terrible. So sudden. I cried at the funeral. I think Ronnie was also quite emotional.

A male reporter, LOCKE, taps Joan on the shoulder.

LOCKE. Say, I'm taking a crew back to Sacramento with Nancy, to interview her at the house.

JOAN. Mm.

LOCKE. Want to come with us? We could use someone like you, you know, someone meta.

JOAN. Great! You could do a story about watching me watch Nancy, or about the rest of us watching each other.

LOCKE. Um, not quite that meta.

CUT TO: INT. NANCY'S HOUSE -- SACRAMENTO -- DAY

Nancy sits in an armchair in her rented house's superbly-appointed living room, while Locke and six TECHIES prepare for the shoot.

Joan stands apart from the group, recording all.

LOCKE. Now, Mrs. Reagan, we just want to watch you doing precisely what you would ordinarily being doing on a day like today.

NANCY. >All right.

Pause. Nancy looks away. Locke looks at her. The camera crew don't meet one another's gazes. No one is meeting anyone's gaze.

LOCKE. So! How about we follow you into the... garden? And you can pick some flowers for us.

(To one of the reporters)

That's something you might ordinarily do, isn't it?

NANCY. Indeed it is.

CUT TO: INT. NANCY'S HOUSE -- GARDEN -- MOMENTS LATER

Nancy opens the kitchen door onto the garden, clippers in hand. The crew follow her out of the house, operating two cameras, four lighting instruments, and two sound recorders. Joan brings up the rear.

NANCY. Actually, I really do need flowers.

LOCKE. Yes, and even though you've got a beautiful arrangement in there now, we could set up the pretense of you're arranging, you know, the flowers.

NANCY. Indeed.

Nancy wanders through the garden. She does a full turn. She takes her sweet time while the crew points, shoots, and waits in suspense.

LOCKE. Uh, Mrs. Reagan. May I ask what you're going to select for flowers?

NANCY. >Why, I don't know.

LOCKE. Do you think you could use... rhododendrons?

Locke taps one of the camera operators on the back, points to the rhododendron bush. The techie slinks over to the bush, aims his camera at it.

NANCY. Did you know there's a Nancy Reagan rose now?

She points to a bush of Nancy Reagan roses.

LOCKE. Uh, no. I didn't.

Locke signals emphatically to the rose bush. The camera operator abandons the rhododendrons, slinks to the roses.

LOCKE (continued). Would the... the Nancy Reagan rose be something you might be likely to pick now?

She laughs thinly.

NANCY. I could certainly pick it. But I won't be using it. I can use... how about the rhododendron?

The camera operator slinks back to the rhododendron.

LOCKE. Fine. Just fine.

Behind the crew, Joan quivers. Her knees are unsteady. A single tear runs down her cheek. One of the techies notices her.

TECHIE

Joan. Joan? What's going on?

JOAN. Excuse me a minute.

She retreats into the house. Locke watches her go, looks back at Nancy.

LOCKE. Now, Mrs. Reagan, I'll ask a question, and if you could just be nipping a bud as you answer it...

NANCY (Nipping a bud. She poses at the bush for the shot.

CAMERA OPERATOR. Let's have a dry run.

LOCKE. You mean you want her to fake nipping the bud.

CAMERA OPERATOR. Fake the nip, yeah. Fake the nip.

CUT TO:

INT. NANCY'S HOUSE -- BATHROOM -- MOMENTS LATER

Softly moaning with pain, Joan vomits into Nancy's pink toilet.

MUSIC CUE: "HELTER SKELTER."

SERIES OF SHOTS:

--NEW YORK: An angry crowd waves pictures of Martin Luther King. A youth tosses a Molotov cocktail into a window, the room burns.

--WASHINGTON, D.C.: Protesters on the mall. They spot a group of marines, mob them, beat them.

--CHICAGO: Police whack their Billy clubs through a crowd of protesters.

--LOS ANGELES: A throng of black men burns a line of parked cars.

--NANCY poses for Locke's camera, pretending to nip the bud.

CUT TO:

I/E. STATION WAGON/HIGHWAY 1 — NIGHT

The crew, stuffed into the vehicle, listen to the radio while one of the techies expounds. Joan, meanwhile, reclines in the back seat with a cloth over her eyes.

RADIO. Pandemonium on the streets of Los Angeles. Today alone police count four dead, with dozens wounded. Watts is burning. Compton is burning!

TECHIE. Man, Compton was burning before the great magnet shot the Reverend! The Reverend wasn't shot in April, he was shot before the Revolution even began.

Joan stirs, rummages through her purse for a syringe and vial of Histamine. She sinks the needle in, draws the liquid out.

TECHIE (continued). This is simple Derrida, they teach this in remedial high school classes in Sweden.

Joan pulls her skirt up, revealing a well-toned leg. The techie stops talking, watches.

Joan sucks in her breath, injects the Histamine into her leg.

TECHIE. Far... out.

CUT TO:

INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- LOS ANGELES -- NIGHT

A spacious, high-ceilinged old house, but run-down and oddly furnished.

Joan staggers through the front door, crosses into:

INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- LOUNGE - CONTINUOUS

Three LONG-HAIRS hang out in the lounge, drinking cocktails in the middle of the night. In the next room, we hear the murmur of a separate CONVERSATION.

When Joan enters, the hippies look up.

LONG-HAIR 1. Hey, everybody, Joan's here!

Joan ignores him, crosses to the bar, where a fresh ice bucket sits.

LONG-HAIR 2. Congratulations, Miss Woman of the Year.

Joan grabs the bucket, exits the way she came in.

CUT TO:

INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- JOAN'S BEDROOM -- MOMENTS LATER

Groaning, she walks out of her shoes, lunges for the bed, spilling the ice bucket across the covers. She pulls the scarf out of her hair. Her shaking fingers try to drop ice cubes into the scarf.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. JOAN'S BEDROOM -- LATER

The ice-filled scarf covering her eyes, Joan worms about on her back, searching for a comfortable position.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. JOAN'S BEDROOM -- MORNING

Joan lies still. The curtains are open, and the sunlight in the windows grows brighter. Out the windows, across the street, we see a ruined mansion. Joan groans, throws an arm over her eyes.

FOOTSTEPS. A FIGURE appears, OUT OF FOCUS, on the far side of the bed. The figure crosses to the farthest window, the one streaming the most light onto Joan's face, closes the curtains.

JOHN. (Slowly closing the rest of the curtains)

You should picture something you love. Something that makes you calm. You should concentrate on that until you can sleep again.

He reaches the last window. As he steps in front of it, we hear POUNDING WATER. He reaches up to close the curtains.

JOAN<. No. Leave it.

John looks at her, his hands suspended over his head.

JOHN. All right.

He walks away from the window. As he does, we see the HOOVER DAM outside, suspended phantasmagorically in the air. The pounding water quiets Joan's breathing, and she lies still.

John exits.

CUT TO:

INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- KITCHEN -- DAY

John TYPES at the kitchen table, enjoying a glass of Bourbon. Joan enters, sleepy but refreshed.

JOAN. You know what I thought of?

JOHN. (Stops typing) What?

JOAN. The Hoover Dam.

(Sits)

Endless water. When you've spent most of your life here, you start to think funny thoughts about water. Like, the water that I'm going to drink tonight. Where is it now? Is it in the San Joaquin Delta, or is it in Oroville, or the California Aqueduct?

JOHN. Joan. We should have a conversation. About what happened last night.

Joan is silent.

JOHN (continued). You're putting yourself through a great strain. And the people who love you — that's Quintana and me — we're starting to feel that strain.

JOAN. I'm sorry, what? I'm putting myself through what exactly?

JOHN. These attacks, Joan. They're becoming so... theatrical.

Joan shoots out of her chair.

JOAN. I don't believe this!

(Crosses to the sink)

You know, the first doctor who ever treated me was this man from my father's Air Corps base. He told me to get an enema. I was eight years old, he said get an enema.

JOHN. (Shakes head). The doctors are right about you. Every word. You are retreating. Into some kind of paranoia.

JOAN. Hey, have you looked at the headlines lately? The way this year is turning out, it's impossible to be paranoid. This is really happening!

JOHN. Will you calm down, please? Now, we've got a child to think about. Your child, whom you chose at birth. Are you calm?

Joan glares at him, nods. John takes a breath.

JOHN. I talked to the doctors about more tests.

JOAN. Oh, Christ!

JOHN. They're interested in an exclusionary diagnosis.

JOAN. What does that mean?

JOHN. It means... more tests.

CUT TO:

INT. HOSPITAL -- SICK ROOM - DAY

Joan sits on a white bed. The nurse extracts a syringe of blood from Joan's arm. Immediately after taking the blood, she hands Joan a glass of thick liquid.

NURSE. Here you go. Best to drink it slowly.

Joan gulps the drink, scowling. She hands the empty glass to the nurse, who exits.

Joan lies back on the bed. Her eyes drift to the clock, which reads 12:00.

We faintly hear MUSIC. Joan's eyes drift to the air condition vent in the corner. We move CLOSE on the vent, and the volume on the music increases.

MUSIC CUE: "THE END."

Joan smiles a painful smile upon hearing the tune.

WE TRAVEL INTO THE VENT, and the music swells. We move through ducts and pipes and come out the other end. We are in:

INT. GROOVY BASEMENT -- NIGHT

A cavernous sanctuary of a basement, a perfect setting for the PARTY of hip intellectuals that's going on right now. Morrison's VOICE drones on the stereo.

Joan listens to the record with MILES, balding but sprouting a ponytail.

MILES. This is what Morrison meant. He said, anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, about activity that appears to have no meaning.

On the other side of the room, OSSIE DAVIS waves around a copy of "The Confessions of Nat Turner." He berates WILLIAM STYRON, who sits nearby.

OSSIE. Why does Nat Turner have to love a white woman? This love for a white maiden, I feel my country can become psychotic about this. It simply begets hatred.

Joan turns back to Miles.

MILES (continued) What do you think he got nabbed at the Go-Go Club for? Dropping the F-Bomb? Please. He got nabbed for not believing in anything. Because that's the real threat, Man, it's a threat to the—

JOAN. They're recording their third album. I'm going to sit in on it.

MILES Groovy, yeah.

Ossie raises his voice.

OSSIE. So, you might ask, why did I spend five years and write Nat Turner? I won't go into my reasons why, but...

MILES (continued). You'll have to check out Manzarek for me. The organist? I hear he snorts a fist full of amyls and plays twelve hours straight, while Morrison shouts out lyrics, and his women write them all down.

JAMES BALDWIN, who sits next to Styron, stops Ossie.

BALDWIN. Well, if Bill's book does no more than what it's done tonight, it's a very important event.

MILES. >Hear, hear!

(Back to Joan)

I envy you, Man. Whatever happens in that recording studio, it's going to be live, going to break the hell... on... through!

CUT TO: INT. RECORDING STUDIO -- DAY

The room is dead. Joan sits on a couch, aiming her microphone at MANZAREK, who fusses with his keyboard, and KRIEGER, who is putting his guitar back together. DENSMORE and two GROUPIES do nothing. An ENGINEER fiddles with the amps.

In the booth, the PRODUCER and MIXER wait.

Long silence. Joan is suffering.

ENGINEER

So. I was listening to an FM station on the way over here, they played three Doors songs. First they played "Back Door Man," and then "Love Me Two Times" and "Light My Fire."

DENSMORE. I heard it, I heard it.

JOAN. So what's wrong with somebody playing three of your songs?

DENSMORE. This cat dedicates it to his family.

JOAN. To his family?

DENSMORE. Yeah, really crass.

Manzarek DOODLES a few notes on his keyboard.

MANZAREK. You think Morrison's going to come back?

(Dead silence)

So we can do some vocals?

ENGINEER. I hope so.

MANZAREK. Yeah. So do I.

Manzarek sidles over to Joan, sits next to her on the couch. He reaches into a paper bag, takes out a hardboiled egg. He bites it, swallows.

MANZAREK (To Joan). Tennyson made a mantra out of his own name. I don't know if he said "Tennyson Tennyson Tennyson" or "Alfred Alfred Alfred" or "Alfred Lord Tennyson," but anyway, he did it. Maybe he just said "Lord Lord Lord."

One of the groupies rests her cheek on her hand.

GROUPIE. Groovy.

MANZAREK. (Turning away from Joan)

I wonder what Blake said. Too bad Morrison's not here. Morrison would know.

CUT TO: INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- OFFICE -- NIGHT

Joan sits at her typewriter, playing back the Doors tape. John walks around the room, Bourbon glass in hand.

MANZAREK. (On tape). Too bad Morrison's not here. Morrison would know.

Joan stops the tape. John laughs.

JOHN. Gee, I wonder what Manzarek's mantra is.

They look at each other, burst into LAUGHTER.

CUT TO:

INT. HOSPITAL -- SICK ROOM -- DAY

The LAUGHTER echoes in Joan's ears, and her face wrinkles into that pained smile.

The clock reads 1:00. The door opens. The nurse enters with another syringe and another glass of thick liquid.

We see the full syringe pull out of Joan's arm, Joan flinching with pain.

We see Joan finish the awful drink, hand the glass to the obliviously smiling nurse, who exits.

Joan reclines wearily. She feels her arm. It is still bleeding. She looks over the edge of the bed. A few drops of blood stain the pristinely white floor. CLOSE on the blood. CLOSER.

SQUEEK! A SHOE slides through the small pool of blood. PULL AWAY, and we see that we are in:

INT. HOSPITAL -- RECEPTION -- CONTINUOUS

The shoe belongs to a black man in a jacket and a bloodied dress shirt, who thumps up to the RECEPTIONIST, clutching his stomach. This is HUEY NEWTON.

HUEY. Please. I was... shot.

RECEPTIONIST. Sir, are you a member of the Kaiser Foundation Hospital?

HUEY. Yes, yes. Now get a doctor. Can't you see I'm bleeding?

RECEPTIONIST. Of course. May I see your Kaiser card?

HUEY<. Goddammit, get a doctor out here, I've been shot!

RECEPTIONIST. I see that, but you're not in any acute distress.

Huey rips off his jacket, throws it to the floor.

HUEY. Can't you see all this blood?

RECEPTIONIST. You're saying you are in acute distress?

HUEY. Yes! Hell yes!

RECEPTIONIST. All right, please sign our admission sheet, Sir.

HUEY. I'm not signing anything.

RECEPTIONIST. You cannot be seen by a doctor unless you sign the admission sheet.

Huey SLAMS a bloody hand on her white desk.

HUEY. Lady, I don't have to sign one motherf—

POLICE SIRENS blare.

MUSIC CUE: "JUMPIN' JACK FLASH."

CUT TO: EXT. ALAMEDA COUNTY JAIL -- DAY

Two police cars pull up to a veritable MOB of protestors and gawkers. Some hold up LET'S SPRING HUEY or NEWTON FOR PRESIDENT signs, and everyone is SCREAMING.

Joan weaves through the mess, flashes her press pass to the GUARDS at the entrance, and rams her way through the sea of VISITORS in the:

INT. ALAMEDA COUNTY JAIL -- LOBBY -- CONTINUOUS

Holding her press pass over her head, Joan shoulders through the lobby to a set of stairs going up. She passes a PANTHER and a LAWYER.

PANTHER. Eldridge doesn't mind if I go up.

LAWYER. Well, Eldridge doesn't mind. Have you got press credentials?

PANTHER. I've got kinds of dubious credentials...

Joan marches up the staircase.

CUT TO: INT. ALAMEDA COUNTY JAIL -- CONFERENCE ROOM -- MOMENTS LATER

When Joan enters, the room is full of reporters, their tape recorders zipping away. Huey sits at the head of a long table, wearing an orange jump suit. ELDRIDGE CLEAVER sits at his side. Huey SPEAKS trippingly for the reporters.

HUEY. You see, the slave master became very envious of the slave, because he pictured the slave as being more of a man, because the penis is part of the body.

Joan finds a spot up close, aims her tape recorder.

HUEY (continued)

He attempted to bind the penis of the slave. He attempted to show that his penis could reach farther than the supermasculine menial's penis.

Eldridge leans in.

ELDRIDGE. Huey, there are a lot of people interested in the Executive Mandate Number Three you've issued to the Black Panther Party. Care to comment?

HUEY. Yes. Executive Mandate Number Three is this demand from the Black Panther Party speaking for the black community. Within the Mandate we admonish the racist police force and remind the racist police force that the Black Panther Party is against racism...

A REPORTER close to Huey interrupts.

REPORTER<. Say, Huey, why don't you tell us something about yourself. About your life before the Panthers.

HUEY. Before the Black Panther Party my life was very similar to that of most black people in this country.

REPORTER. Well, your family, some incidents you remember, the influences that shaped you.

HUEY. Living in America shaped me.

REPORTER. >Well, yes, but more specifically—

HUEY. It reminds me of a quote from James Baldwin: "To be black and conscious in America...

CUT TO: INT. HOSPITAL -- SICK ROOM -- DAY

The clock reads 2:00. Joan's eyes half open, then close again.

HUEY (V.O., continued) ...is to be in a constant stage of rage..."

The door opens. The nurse reappears with syringe and glass.

JOAN. Oh, Christ.

NURSE. (Laying down the supplies) It's not that bad. You've only got three more hours to go.

Joan closes her eyes, falls onto the pillow.

DISSOLVE TO: INT. HOSPITAL -- LOBBY -- AFTERNOON

In the FOREGROUND, John and Dr. Trustman watch the nurse wheel Joan (MIDDLEGROUND) towards the hospital's entrance doors (BACKGROUND).

TRUSTMAN. We'll let you know if we find anything. Keep her on the medication. Keep her rested.

John snorts.

JOHN. I can't even keep her in California.

TRUSTMAN. You're going to have to try.

The nurse stops Joan's wheelchair just outside the doors. Joan puts her hands in the air. We faintly hear her.

JOAN. Oh, so now I can get up? Well, thank you!

She rises.

CUT TO: INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- OFFICE -- NIGHT

SMASH! A glass of ice and Bourbon breaks at Joan's feet. At the other end of the room, John starts, scowls.

JOAN. You can save that bullshit for your books.

JOHN. I'm trying to give you some perspective. My family went from steerage to suburbia in three generations. They didn't do it lying in a dark room, or running off to New York, or Sacramento every time they got spooked.

JOAN. What's that got to do with us? I am so sick of this Irish nostalgia of yours. I'm sick of being sick, and I'm sick of —

(Gestures toward the office door)

— never being alone in our own house.

We see that a longhair has wandered into the hall and stopped to conspicuously eavesdrop on the dispute. The longhair registers Joan's comment, looks over his shoulder, sallies out of view.

JOHN. Don't deconstruct me. Just listen to what I'm saying. Millions of people go about their lives every day in this city. Through hardship. They go to their jobs, they come home to their families...

Joan wanders toward the office door.

JOAN. "So many, I had not thought death had undone so many. Sighs, short and infrequent were exhaled..."

John shakes his head, watches the floor.

JOAN (comtinued) "And each man fixed his eyes upon his feet. Flowed up the hill and down King William Street..."

VROOM! VROOM! We see a clip from a low-budget motorcycle picture. Two HELL'S ANGELS zip through the desert, waving shotguns.

CUT TO: INT. EDITING ROOM -- DAY

VROOM! VROOM! BANG! BANG! At the editing console is LESTER, overweight and bearded. He freezes the frame. The SOUND cuts out.

Behind him stands Joan, watching the screen. Behind her, a tan blonde in a sundress snoops in Lester's various bins and boxes. This is DALLAS BEARDSLEY (20s).

LESTER. I don't know why you keep coming here, Joan. If you've seen one of these things, you've seen them all. I mean, Hell's Angels on Wheels, Hell's Angels '69, Run Angel Run, The Wild Angels, The Violent Angels...

JOAN. They're all the same, I know. I love that. I love how predictable they are.

(Points to Dallas)

By the way, Lester, this is Dallas. I met her in the parking lot.

Dallas steps forward, shakes Lester's hand.

JOAN (continued)

Dallas wants to be in pictures.

DALLAS. I saw an ad in the Daily Variety that said, "There is no one like me in the world I'm going to be a movie star!"

Joan squats next to the editing console.

JOAN. You've got the outlaw hero, who's also a sophomore existentialist. That's Peter Fonda.

LESTER (Points to the screen). Well, here it's Jack Nicholson.

JOAN. You've got terrorizing the citizenry, and fencing with the Highway Patrol, and then that last righteous blaze of death.

(Turns to Dallas)

They're also pretty regressive about gender relations, Dallas. Would you object to work on a film like this?

DALLAS. Oh, I've tried, Joan, I've tried. But you just can't get a TV jingle in this town without an agent, I guess.

Joan wanders away, lifts discarded film clips out of a bin, holds them up to the light.

DALLAS (continued). The big agents are nice. They return your calls. It's the little ones who're nasty.

Joan picks up a second scrap of film. She lays the two clips in the splicing device.

DALLAS (continued). But I understand, I really do. When they hurt you, it's because they've been hurt themselves.

Joan sticks a square of splicing tape into the device, splices the two random clips together.

On Lester's screen, the Hell's Angels are having a shootout with some REDNECKS in a farmhouse. The Angels and rednecks are dying in droves.

DALLAS (continued).

And maybe God means for you to be hurt, so some beautiful thing can happen later.

Lester's screen EXPANDS, engulfs our whole field of vision. In grainy CLOSE-UP, we see the film's bloody climax, bodies strewn about the house.

MUSIC CUE: "REVOLUTION 9."

CLOSER. The bloody, broken forms become abstracted, OUT OF FOCUS.

The GUNSHOT sounds FADE OUT, and the sounds of MOANING and BLUDGEONING FADE UP. The scene changes. We no longer witness a gun fight, but a midnight massacre.

The grainy, yellowed film is replaced by the pixilated, strobe-like crawl of a TV screen.

PULL AWAY from the screen. We see several BODIES carried out of a house by PARAMEDICS. The bodies are covered with red-stained sheets.

We watch SILENT interviews with DETECTIVES, NEIGHBORS. We are shown a color photograph of a pretty, red-head. This is SHARON TATE. We are shown a black-and-white photograph of CHARLES MANSON.

CUT TO: EXT. CALIFORNIA HOME -- SWIMMING POOL -- DAY

A pool party is in progress, interrupted by the female HOST, dressed in her bathing suit, SILENTLY yelling at her GUESTS. She stands on the deck, watching a small TV that sits on a lawn table.

Her guests cease their swimming, climb out of the pool, dripping. They pad over to the table, crowd around the TV.

Among them is Joan.

The picture on the screen is the Manson photograph. After a moment, the picture on the screen cuts back to the flashing ambulances outside.

Joan does not mask her horror. She scans the guests for their reactions, but they exhibit none. No one shares her expression of fear. She backs away from the group and the television.

CUT TO: INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- LOUNGE -- NIGHT

Amidst the confusion of "REVOLUTION 9," Joan staggers into the lounge, populated by three long-hairs. It's a recreation of her return home from Sacramento, but things move slower. VOICES are distorted.

We hear the long-hairs CHATTER, but we cannot hear their words. In the next room, we see only shadows. Long-hair 1 turns.

LONG-HAIR 1. (Distorted). Hey, everybody... Joan's... here...

The PEOPLE from the other room emerge, stand in the lounge doorway. They stare at Joan with deadly faces.

They simultaneously hold up their KNIVES and STRAIGHT RAZORS!

CUT TO: INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- CORRIDOR -- NIGHT

Quintana, now three, wanders through the hall, gazing into the various rooms.

She reaches the lounge. The room is empty, except for a pair of LEGS sticking out from behind the bar on the floor.

QUINTANA. Mommy?

Quintana sprints to the pair of legs. We see they belong to Joan, who lies on her back behind the bar. Quintana shakes her arms, whimpers.

QUINTANA. Mommy! Mommy!

Joan jolts awake.

JOAN. Hmm? What? Oh, sweetie, what are you doing here?

CUT TO:

INT. EXAMINATION ROOM -- DAY

ZZZZZ! A huge electric, moving panel lined with brain scans slides up to meet an equally large florescently-lit panel. SNAP! The two panels meet.

Joan sits on a swivel chair while John stands next to her, holding her hand. Two new doctors, DOCTORS PENN and PARISH, point to the X-rays.

PENN. It's possible you will experience the symptoms of neural damage for the rest of your life.

Parish jumps in, putting up a defensive, cautionary hand.

PARISH. It is equally possible that you will not.

PENN. Yes. Now, these symptoms—

PARISH. — which may or may not occur—

PENN. — could affect your eyes, arms, legs, abdomen—

>PARISH. It's also possible that the symptoms won't affect any of these body parts.

PENN. Not much is known about multiple sclerosis, Mrs. Dunne —

JOHN

Didion.

PENN. Didion, yes, of course. Anyway, when I say, "multiple sclerosis," that's really just an exclusionary diagnosis.

JOHN. What does that mean?

Penn and Parish consult each other with their eyes, turn back to John and Joan.

PARISH. Nothing.

PENN. The best advice I can give you is, lead a simple life.

PARISH. (Cautionary hand) Not that it makes any difference we know about.

CUT TO: INT. JOAN'S HOUSE -- BEDROOM -- AFTERNOON

Joan and John pack two suitcases, she at the bed and he at the armchair. Joan breaks the silence.

JOAN<. Roman Polanski spilled wine on my wedding dress, do you remember? At a party in Bel-Air?

John says nothing.

JOAN. Sharon Tate was there, too, but she didn't spill anything on me.

John keeps packing. Beat.

Joan crosses to the closet just as John crosses to the dresser. Their eyes meet as they pass. They slow down but have nothing to say.

They walk away from one another, stop. Neither one turns around.

JOAN. Will you try to live with it? With my... wrongthink?

JOHN. Will you try to make things matter again?

DISSOLVE TO: EXT. ROYAL HAWIIAN HOTEL -- SUNSET

A taxi pulls up outside the hotel. Joan leads her daughter out of the taxi and into the lobby. John and the CAB DRIVER carry the bags.

DISSOLVE TO: INT. ROYAL HAWIIAN HOTEL -- BEDROOM -- SUNSET

Joan jumps onto the bed with Quintana, tickles her. The little girl shrieks with delight.

JOAN. Hey. What do you want to do tomorrow?

QUINTANA. Can we... look at the mansions?

JOAN. Of course we can, darling.

QUINTANA. And eat... some... pip... um, pip...

JOAN. Pipikaula?

John stands in the doorway, watching them SILENTLY.

QUINTANA. Yeah, and swim in the beach.

JOAN. Okay! We will swim in the beach.

John walks into their line of sight.

JOHN. I'm afraid no beach tomorrow.

JOAN. What?

John crosses the room, sits in a chair.

JOHN. They just had a quake in the Aleutians. 7.5 Richter scale.

Joan wilts with disappointment.

JOHN (continued) They're expecting tidal waves tomorrow.

JOAN. Well, but those things are usually false alarms anyway.

No one says anything. Quintana looks from Joan to John, waiting for someone to talk to her. John gazes out the window.

JOAN. When do they expect it? When will we know?

John does not look away from the window.

JOHN. Who can say? I guess we'll just have to wait.

The only sound we hear is the BREEZE playing with the translucent curtains.

The sunset is dying. No lights are on in the bedroom. The three of them slowly fade into:

BLACK.

[To Preface to "The White Album"]


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Last modified 12 May 2005