- The writer/director is one of Hollywood's all-time superstar actors. He appears in the film, though in a supporting role. Interestingly, the actual male lead is a dead ringer for a younger version of the megastar and was nearly passed over for the part as a result. However, the two are not related.
- The female lead is the daughter of rock 'n' roll royalty.
- The film is the only one I know of that takes place, at least in part, in northwest Pennsylvania.
Drum roll please...
Title: That Thing You Do!
Director: Tom Hanks
Original Release: 1996
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The hero is Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott, the Tom Hanks double), a genuinely talented drummer stuck working for his dad at the local home appliance store. One day, a pal recruits him to sit in with his band for a talent show. Guy surprises his new mates by upping the tempo at the performance and the magic begins. First, a vagabond agent discovers the act, then a Hollywood record label represented by Mr. White (Hanks). The band tours state fairs en route to LA. As happens in life, some relationships develop while others suffer.
Liv Tyler (daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steve) is Faye, the lead singer Jimmy's girlfriend. Ms. Tyler's film performances are uneven in my experience. She flourishes with great material (see Lord of the Rings) but lacks the talent to carry a movie on her own. Faye is a good role for her. She and Scott have wonderful chemistry, essential to the successful execution of the plot. She has a monologue towards the end in a consequential moment with Jimmy that is, frankly, painful. It's the big clunker line in an otherwise well-written screenplay, not entirely unlike Andie MacDowell's "Is it raining?" disaster in Four Weddings and a Funeral. But it's not really her fault. I blame the writer (Hanks again) for that one.
Two scenes have always stood out for me in That Thing You Do! The first, I will admit, is a strange choice. I love the scene in which Guy's girlfriend Tina (Charlize Theron) dumps him. Tina has fallen in love with her hunky dentist but has yet to tell Guy. Tina and Guy are on the phone engaged in what he assumes is their usual comfortable prattle. Suddenly bored with their conversation, she hangs up on him. No explanation. No further discussion. She's had enough and she's moving on. Done. I love it! It would be rotten in real life but in the movie, it works.
The second scene is more obvious: the first time the band hears their own song playing on the radio. My one lasting image from the movie has always been Liv Tyler running down the Erie sidewalk, screaming with delight. If you wish to see pure joy portrayed on screen, look no further.
For those two scenes alone, I would happily watch the movie anytime. In many ways, though, the true star is the title song, genuinely catchy. In the movie universe, it hit #7 on the Billboard chart. In the real world, it reached a nothing-to-sneeze-at 41.
Next meeting is Friday, March 11th. I'll post March's blog list tomorrow. For March, pick another society member's choice from our ever increasing library to review. Today, please visit my fellow cinephiles, listed below: