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Tom Hanks wrote and directed this paean to the glory days of rock n' roll,
an era in which even the wildest music still reflected a certain innocence,
long since gone if not forgotten, before the advent of Metal, Rap and
Grunge. It's 1964, and `That Thing You Do!' is about to become a hit record
for a small band out of Erie, Pa., who call themselves the `Oneders
(pronounced Wonders),' but who are destined to begin their musical odyssey
know as the `Oh-NEED-ers.' Drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) works
in his father's appliance store, but when the band's drummer breaks his arm
right before a gig, Guy is asked to sit in for him. And it winds up being a
case of being in the right place at the right time for Guy, like when Ringo
joined The Beatles, and the rest-- as they say-- is history.
It's a lively, upbeat tale in which luck, talent and chance all play a part. Hanks presents the upside of making it in the music business, including the adrenaline rush of hearing one's own song on the radio for the first time, as well as all the hoopla that surrounds those who happen to be in the spotlight at the moment. But he also shows the downside: The creative differences and in-fighting which plagues just about any band ever formed to some degree at one time or another, the personality conflicts and petty jealousies that are apt to surface at any time, and the reality of dealing with bloated egos, adoring fans and rude, insensitive record label executives who could care less about the talent that is putting the coins in their coffers, as long as they're selling records.
For the most part, Hanks keeps it lighthearted and cheerful, which-- along with the original songs (some of which he helped write)-- makes this an entertaining, fun and thoroughly enjoyable movie. He sugar-coats the dark side of it all to a certain extent, which makes the bad things that happen a bit easier to swallow, though it compromises the impact of the events somewhat as they unfold. Then again, he manages to maintain the credibility and integrity of his story, and after all, `this' is the film he wanted to make, and he presents it exactly as intended. Hanks captures a sense of time and place with this film, and also that same sense of reality conveyed by The Beatles' film, `A Hard Day's Night,' intentionally avoiding the more stoic reality of the more recent `Almost Famous.' All three films are fairly true to life, but with varying degrees of honesty. It's a matter of whether to `imply,' as Hanks has done, or to be explicit, as Cameron Crowe chose to do with his film.
With this film Hanks proves that he is equally as adept behind the camera as he is in front of it; he knows exactly where he wants to take his audience and when, and he does it quite successfully. He also extracts some nice performances from his actors, especially Scott, Johnathon Schaech (Jimmy, the lead singer), Steve Zahn (Lenny, on guitar) and Liv Tyler as Faye Dolan, Jimmy's girlfriend, who takes the brunt of the blunt edge of Jimmy's sudden notoriety. Hanks also turns in a notable performance himself, as Mr. White, the representative of one of the labels interested in the Oneders.
The supporting cast includes Ethan Embry (The Bass Player), Charlize Theron (Tina), Obba Babatunde (Lamarr), Giovanni Ribisi (Chad), Chris Ellis (Phil), Alex Rocco (Sol), Bill Cobbs (Del Paxton), Peter Scolari (Tony), Rita Wilson (Marguerite), Chris Isaak (Uncle Bob) and Kevin Pollak (Boss Koss). What `Happy Days' was to television, `That Thing You Do!' is to movies; a film that evokes that perceived sense of innocence of a time when life at least seemed simpler. For the more distance you put between the present and the `Good old days,' the better they get. In reality, they may not have been better, but Hanks preserves that illusion by giving us a picture of the way we'd at least like to think things were. And it's more than a pleasant diversion; this is a feel-good film you'll be able to enjoy time and again, because it takes you to a place you'd like to be-- a place you've been to before at one time or another, in one way or another, if only in your mind. And that Hanks can take you there so readily is not only a credit to his talent, but another fine example of the pure magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.
I didn't see That Thing You Do (TTYD) when it came out, and it's too
bad. This movie will--strange to think--rank up there with "Stop Making
Sense" as a classic concert film. Interesting that 1) they're not
really comparable, since SMS is real concert footage and TTYD is a
mockumentary, and 2) Jonathon Demme is in TTYD!
Is this a timeless movie? Close. Darn close. What's great? Actually--almost enlightening--Hanks' writing is really quite wonderful. The dialog is almost a rare example of direct, effective, "connecting" film writing. The casting, directing, and acting is great. The editing is very effective. The sets, costumes, general "look" is a delight. The music is very, very effective. So much subtle craftsmanship goes into stuff at the right levels of detail, that you might accuse the film of failing to be like a genuine "rock 'n' roll experience" because it's almost too crafty. But I think they pull it off.
What's wrong with the movie? Not much. The ending flags a little. The pre-credits posting of thumbnail future bios of the characters is a cheap device; but again I think it doesn't eclipse the power of the mythic payload (the moral) which ultimately has to do with the power of love. And I don't say that in a wishy-washy sense. What is love? According to this movie, it's that multi-dimensional experience which includes not just finding "that special someone," but also finding your path. It reminds me of an exchange I had with a work buddy who hoped to write "that big hit tune" and retire early. I loaned him a record by Fred Frith, which put him off entirely. "This guy won't ever get anywhere," he said. But I patiently explained that he (my friend) and I get up in the morning and go to our corporate jobs. This guy (Frith) gets up and goes to the studio. Who's the success? That's a big life lesson, and I think this movie nuances that very effectively. It can even translate to any of life's pursuits, not just music.
I found myself being continuously delighted by this film. At the risk of sounding like a green ass, I want to plug this film's attention to a time-honored aesthetic virtue: Hard work. This film is a labor of love, with equal attention to the inspiration AND perspiration.
I can't believe how much I like this movie! I feel like a bobbysoxer saying it! I resonated with this movie on many points. Let me give you one example. I was in a little band once and was something of the "muse" of that band. Something I always marveled at was how "the creative process" people talk about is actually a very simple and practical reality when you're actually being creative. One of the sweet, simple high points of working up a number is the act of picking the tempo. If you've ever done this, you know what I'm talking about. Picking the tempo is a profoundly rewarding act, and of course that's just one small aspect of the process. So the scene near the beginning of the flick where the drummer overrules Jimmy and establishes an uptempo beat to what was supposed to be a ballad is a profoundly resonant moment for me. And the direction and editing bring together an almost perfect picture of the very real and profound joy that this brings to people.
There were many, many moments in this movie that affected me in much the same way. If you haven't seen it and you love "concert films," check it out.
(NOTE: I wrote a little "trip guide" to TTYD!, which can be found at: http://www.ronazajac.com/That_Thing_You_Do_Comments.pdf . Hope you find it useful. -raz)
I remember when I first saw this in the '90s and thinking, "Wow, what a
shock: a modern-day movie with no no villains, no nasty people and nary
a cuss word." I kept waiting for that stuff, and it never appeared. It
also has a nice sentimental ending.
The story is a simple one about a group of average guys who form a band and become one-hit wonders.
Tom Everett Scott, a young Tom Hanks-lookalike, is an appealing lead and Liv Tyler looks very, very pretty in the female lead role. The band in this almost-old-fashioned musical, is good to hear, too. They are a throwback to the old movie musical days of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Yes, you hear the same song (the movie title) over and over but's a great song which is very catchy. The rest of the music is decent, too.
Speaking of Hanks, he plays the promoter of the group. It's not a huge part but Hanks, as always, is entertaining. The whole film is, and, is refreshing to see.
We've sorta been down this road before: 1960s pop band makes it out of their dead-end hometown for Hollywood, but fame and fortune unravel the fun. Still, this picture has remarkable focus, careful period detail, and a lovely cast that rarely (if ever) strikes a false note. If some of the young actors sometimes seem like they're doing Tom Hanks impersonations, that's okay because director Hanks (himself a co-star) seems to know these characters inside and out--and he likes them. We in the audience are quick to respond, and even the conventional parts of the movie work because Hanks rides over clichés with verve and enthusiasm and wit. Not a raucous comedy a la "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (which is what it looked like to me in the ads), this has its share of subtle moments. There is a mean-spirited dig at the Frankie & Annette "Beach Party" flicks, and the ready-made romance at the end is sugar-coated, but "That Thing You Do!" is immensely likable. It has a huge heart. ***1/2 from ****
That Thing You Do!
In every life there becomes a time when that dream you dream becomes that
thing you do.
That Thing You Do begins with a group of friends practising for their college talent show. Their band - the amusingly named One-ders win the contest with their catchy song - That Thing You Do. But this is only the beginning of their success story. In a blur, the newly renamed Wonders become a hit - playing at their local clubs, and then moving on to a national tour with Playtone records under the guidance of Mr White (Tom Hanks) The beauty of the film is there is no conflict, just the excitement and exhilaration that the band feels as they become celebrities and this is can't be shown better than in the scene where they first hear their song on the radio and they are literally dancing in the street, you can't help but feel happy for them too. Tom Everett Scott plays the charming Guy Patterson - the electrical store assistant who becomes the band's drummer and a national sex symbol with his trademark sunglasses. Lenny (Steve Zahn) is the carefree guitarist who sees the bands success as a huge lark and just throws himself into enjoying every day. Jimmy (James) Mattingly II is the band's creativity - writing the songs - and also its serious side. He sees the commercialisation of the wonders as stifling his creativity and is reluctant to sign anything to do with his music. Liv Tyler is also a delight as Jimmy's girlfriend Faye and the band's biggest supporter. The success of That Thing You do lies in the little things that are so easy to miss yet are the glue that brings the whole film together. Watch out for how well Guy's family react to his success and how the bands first drummer with the broken arm keeps turning up. Also notice how it is Guy that keeps looking out for Faye. It is these little things that will bring you to the film and that find you leaving with a smile and a desire to see it again.
"That Thing You Do!" is a perfect film about a group of guys in the mid-1960's inspired by Thelonius Monk-type jazz and Beatles-esque pop music. With one hit single, they are catapulted to clean-shaven, teen idol stardom. The band "The Wonders" could easily have been the 60's pop group "The Turtles" or "The Beau Brummels." The film's plot is fairly simple, yet it doesn't veer off into the typical VH1 Behind The Music avenue of excessive sex and drugs. Matter of fact, they aren't even mentioned. Written, directed and starring Tom Hanks, "That Thing You Do!" is honest and easily palitable for younger audiences. It rarely strays away from its theme: The climax and downward slope of musical fame. Viewers can also appreciate several 60's pop culture bones, thrown by Hanks himself to a nostalgic audience of youngsters such as myself. Plot occassionally gives way to hype and music, but that's okay. I was sort of looking for that. I really appreciated the "The Wonders" drummer relationship to "Dell Paxton," a jazz musician that's obviously a Thelonius Monk reference. Check them out jamming together during the third act of the film. Now THAT'S what I call truly remarkable music. The song "that thing you do" could easily have been a number one single in 1965. It's a simple, hook-laden piece of popcorn that's catchy on a near paranormal level. It was written by members of the modern pop/rock group "Fountains of Wayne." One can only wish for more music such as this today. There's enough innocence in it to guarentee parents' wide-eyed approval ... and just a bit of angst to attract the attention of hormone-raging teenagers the world over. Definetly an excellent movie for your shelf ... right next to your DVD copies of "A Hard Day's Night" and "The Beatles Anthology." Also ... check out "The Beau Brummels." Rhino Records has issued a great best-of package. One has to wonder if Tom Hanks had them in mind while writing the script. They had a few hits, though none will be as remembered as the poppy "Laugh, Laugh." A true gem from 1960's rock 'n roll.
If you have ever been in a band and dreamed of getting out of the garage and onto a stage,then this movie is definitely for you! No matter when you had this dream,you'll experience all the pleasures and joys of being a musician,,,and of course all the downfalls.Yes,it is from a time that won't return,when the music business wasn't such a meat parade and had to do with eager talent.That was then and this is now. Still the characters represent the different types you'll come across,the egos, the clowns and the luck of being at the right place at the right time.At this point in time,it is also interesting to see how the cast members have gone on to other projects,the most recent being Liv Tyler in LOTR,Giovanni Ribisi in COLD MOUNTAIN,Thom Everett Scot in ER and I think that Hanks fellow has been around doing this and that.
Overall, I have to say I enjoyed Hanks' feature directing debut(this is not, by the way, the first time he sat in the director's chair; he directed a segment of a Showtime film noir series; I think it was called CITY OF ANGELS). He did a convincing job not only recreating the time, but also the music, which sounded like period music without being a pale shadow of it. He also made a wise choice for his lead; Tom Everett Scott may not have moved on to bigger things yet, but as this film shows, he's destined for them. Steve Zahn is funny as always, Hanks does well playing a company man, and Liv Tyler is quite luminous(though I could have done without the "thousand kisses" speech; that was melodramatic). On the down side, I'm not a big fan of Johnathan Schaech, but his character was too much of a caricature. And sometimes it was just too light. Still, this was overall an enjoyable movie.
Tom Hanks directs, writes and stars in this brilliant rock 'n' roll movie, which features a great soundtrack too. I love the 50's/60's days, so this movie was perfect for me. There was some great acting here too, especially, by the brilliant Tom Hanks. This is a movie, that everyone should see. That Thing You do, definitely deserves a 10/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A snappy, exhilarating movie, with a slightly 'down' ending, but which
nonetheless entertains, without educating (a staple of American
cinema). That's not to say this isn't an excellent film - full credit
goes to Hanks (as writer-director) for crafting a vehicle in which he
stars, that he is not the star of, focusing on the rise and fall of a
rock group ensconced in British Invasion-era America.
'Not educating' because this film deals very little in the reality of the business management behind The Wonders' success. Sure, no audience will sit through protagonists sludging through reams of contracts, but an audience can stomach details on the industry process of promoting an artist, because we see The Wonders single rising the Billboard charts, but no one ever mentions how it does this. Hanks puts in clues, but the dots are never joined - which might be construed as treating an audience as "intelligent" - whoa!, let's not go overboard...
The Wonders are drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott, oozing pleasant-ville like a born-again on crank), bandleader Jimmy (an intensely-focused Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn, also pleasant - but unbalanced in that non-threatening way we term "kooky"), and a nameless bassist (Ethan Embry, a wisp of effete lower end). Rounding out the troupe is Jimmy's unappreciated girlfriend, Fay (the gorgeous Liv Tyler).
After a few appearances and an indie single, The Wonders "make it" (see how EASY it is, starving musicians?). In turning them over to a major record label, The Wonders' first Garage Days manager, Phil, portrays a simplistic, "noble" approach ("My bird-doggin' is done - Play-Tone's gonna take care of ya"), failing to mention that for a major to express that much interest in a band, the label's rep, Mr. White (a high-foreheaded Hanks), must have bought The Wonders' contract from Phil with a monetary offer he couldn't refuse. When Guy expresses how easy it all seems, White smoothly purrs, "Well, papers will have to be signed and you'll have to get me the master tapes..." Suddenly Reality is served - you could almost see the horns growing out of White's forehead.
Hanks doesn't serve up too much of this meat, and by concentrating on the end-result of all the bureaucracy and hard work - the gigs - we are given a skewed view of this "job." Seems like it's all just "fun," but there are as many rockers who attest that they "hate their job," as there are desk-jockeys nine-to-fiving. When it's your primary income, it's your Job - simple. And any job done well will elicit fun. Any job where you cannot cope, becomes not fun.
The band guys are perceived as financially secure by movie's end, but a debut artist selling one single - even to Number One - cannot possibly recoup any of the money that the record label advanced to duplicate, promote and distribute the single nationally. As most veteran artists will attest, they had to wait for their fourth or fifth album (not single) to put them in the black fiscally. And The Wonders ultimately reneged on their contract, which meant that any advances assigned as living expenses on tour would suddenly dry up. It's an intimidating, debilitating legal situation that ensues - but the film sidestepped this issue. Rightly so.
The crowning glory of this movie is undoubtedly its synchronized soundtrack. Very few movies (including monumental, award-winning productions like Amadeus or Immortal Beloved) pay this much attention to ensuring that musician's manipulations on screen match the audio soundtrack, except maybe "This Is Spinal Tap." (Of course, movies about real musical artists don't enter this assessment: "Woodstock," "Gimme Shelter," "The Song Remains The Same," etc. - although the Zep movie has its mighty share of non-sync passages.) When the Eddie & The Cruisers movies surged into cinemas in the 80s, I was humiliated at the lack of savvy the filmmakers exhibited in their portrayal of the rock and roll milieu. A major musical flaw was the set-and-forget production value for all the songs, making them sound exactly the same, as if they were all recorded in one place at one time, with one overall mix - which is what was actually done, of course - but to bring some credibility to the movie, the producers should have assessed the circumstances for each scene and mixed the music accordingly which is what Hanks and his audio personnel intuitively did for this movie.
Every single time The Wonders perform their hit, the eponymous "That Thing You Do," the sound is mixed to reflect the type of stadium, bar or studio they are in; every single on screen frame of the actors-playing-musicians is synched Hanks specifically made his principals take instrument lessons before filming began down to every single beat of drum-fill on screen being accounted for, down to the guitarists changing to correct chords in correct positions in sync with the audio! If Hanks was brave enough to cast Liv Tyler (a daughter of Rock Royalty), he must have had heady confidence in his team of editors and sound engineers, for to fail at putting across the "musicality" of this movie (with Steven's progeny willing to be involved in it) would not allow Hanks to show his face in public ever again.
Of course there are minute flaws, but none worth mentioning here. There are too many trinkets to keep one sated: Guy's fastidious father, Jimmy's fascination with punning the band's name (spelled initially as "One-Ders" and subsequently mispronounced "Oh-NEE-ders" continuously), the well-drawn band personalities (the "talented one," "smart one," "quiet one," "zany one"), cameos from Peter Scolari (Hanks' old Bosom Buddy), Rita Wilson, Alex Rocco (Moe Green in The Godfather), Kevin Pollak; the subtle romance between Guy and Fay, who are not actually an item until the last few frames of film...
...and you'll never be able to get that damn song out of your head!
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