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This movie doesn't so much have a plot as a trajectory. Nevertheless,
it is better to see it yourself than to know where it is going. Suffice
it to say that it is about a rock band, and how its members, friends
and family respond to its success. As such, it is in the slice-of-life
Given its nearly 2 and a half hour length on the directors cut that I saw, and recommend, it works remarkably well. After awhile, I wondered if something would happen, some disaster or twist of fate, some bad guy to thicken the plot, and noticed the movie was rather long. But I wasn't bored at all, and was enjoying seeing the story unfold. In the end, the length was just right.
Also, I am not a rock fan, so I was a bit skeptical. It didn't matter. In the wrong hands, this could have turned into Partridge Family cornball. But it is solid.
To all this, Tom Hanks deserves the credit as writer, director, and low- key star, who appears late in the movie. It's a first class job. Not an earth shaking masterpiece, but a well-crafted, thoroughly enjoyable movie.
I am a stickler for anachronisms in movies like this. This is a period piece set in Erie, Pennsylvania, circa 1964. The Sixties was a fluid time, where the culture changed every two years; 1964 was different from 1960, 1962, 1966 and 1968. The fact that one of the band members enlists in the Marines, without any mention of Vietnam, is a good measure of the mood and innocence of 1964, versus 1966, when the war had become politicized. America was at its best around this time, and it was all downhill from there.
The movie captured the spirit of this window of time. Tom Hanks was 8 at the time, so he could not rely solely on memory, and must have done some historical research to fully understand the period. Whoever was in charge of props did a fantastic job of assembling lots of appliances, radios, recording gear and lots of cars. This is a movie that got it right. I loved when Skitch handed out pocket transistor radios to everyone in the band - back then an AM radio would have cost about $10 to $15, very expensive at the time, about $50 or more in today's dollars.
The only anachronism I found was when Skitch tells a customer the appliance is available in avocado. Avocado was a notoriously common kitchen appliance color in the 1970s; I see it was introduced by GE in 1966, but became a tidal wave around 1968-1970. It was one of those fashion things, a late Dating Game chic, when all of a sudden everything was avocado green (or harvest gold), color coordinated so people could have an entire kitchen of avocado, lucky you!. And then avocado, predictably, disappeared. I found a post, "The Death of Avocado" that observed it was a mistake to put a trendy color on a long-life appliance, which looked obnoxious after coordinating avocado room decor disappeared. No kidding. I was just a kid at the time, but I could see that coming.
See how sensitive the cultural timeline is for the Sixties? Actually, I would say what most people think of as the Sixties began around 1963-64, with the Beatles and the period of this film, and lasted till Nixon's resignation in 1974 (although some place the beginning of change at 1959). After that, the years unfolded in a homogeneous miasma, distinguished mainly by the gradual introduction of new technology, like the VCR, the Walkman and cordless phone sizes.
That an appliance color was the only missed stitch in the movie indicates just how good it was!
The acting all round was excellent. There were no caricatures, even with the doorman at the LA hotel, who had some real depth to his role. And, although I read here there were pro musicians actually dubbing the music, the actors were totally convincing that they were the ones making the music.
"That Thing You Do" fits most closely the mold of "Breaking Away," which also featured a cast of talented young actors, and a skeptical, practical father representing the secure, dull path. Both are about life, dreams and fallibility. They both offer a lesson for young people. And in both, in the end, they turn a corner and life goes on.
This is an enjoyable, memorable and thoughtful film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a comedy about real young people from the Rock 'n Roll planet in
the early 1960s. It's funny but also typically American. There are so
many sharks going around looking for young teenage would-be rock stars
that it is impossible not to be noticed by one, one day, not to become
some one overnight and not to dissolved as soon as the top is reached.
To stay at the top is really difficult. A band in those days, and in
the USA, was the normal way for anyone who wanted to do some music on
the stage to go around but bands did not last long. Everyone is not the
Beatles or the Rolling Stones, you know. This is the story of the
short-lived Wonders and yet the four boys and the one girl who were
there at the first public appearance in the boonies, all eventually did
something with their skin and their brains, if they had any, both skin
and brains. Today that adventure still exists in the USA but it has
also taken names like Myspace music, Youtube, Daily Motion and some
others. Permanence of course is nothing in that business in 99% of the
cases, but chance is also essential for those who have something in
their veins. A career is often 50% talent and 50% chance, some would
say opportunity. But the film is funny, though so banal that it should
be a warning to anyone who wants to imitate these young teenagers. As
the old Paxton would say: look after your money, women and a few other
things of that type. Yesterday is a sure thing that existed but
tomorrow is as brittle as an egg shell in front of a bulldozer. And the
world is full of bulldozers crushing many eggshells down into the
ground and powder. Dust to dust mind you.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I saw this movie advertised in the theaters back in 1996, I rolled
my eyes in great disdain. For one thing the advertising banner - "In
every life there comes a time when that dream you dream becomes that
thing you do" hit me the wrong way. After all, 95% of us never wind up
doing the dream we dream...there is no WHEN in our lives for this
event. Plus, I just figured it was an attempt by Tom Hanks to go
highbrow via a directorial debut after those back-to-back Academy
When I finally got around to seeing the film I really loved it. The first half is very upbeat as the band gets started out. They truly are the "One-ders", just like many other bands of the Beatles' transitional era. They wrote and performed one song that got them national attention, and then couldn't follow up with anything else. That's too bad, because the band does get one lucky break after another at the start. The guy in the camper that shoves a bowl of stew and a contract in front of them and tells them to "trust me" could have had them signing anything. They got lucky that he was legitimate and really did intend to get the record on the air and not steal it from them. That's what makes the disintegration of the band at the end so sad. One by one, they just walk away from their dream. To me, if the movie had any flaw, it was this - the band members just acted like the whole thing was one big amusement park ride rather than a once-in-a-lifetime life changing opportunity.
Finally, I also loved all of the authentic looking stage designs. The home appliance store really brought back memories. These type of family owned appliance stores were all over the place back in the 1960's before the big box stores gradually made them extinct. Plus, the appliances being sold looked just like what was available in 1964 right down to the brand names and the styles.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
That Thing You Do!" was Tom Hanks' first, and to date only, film as
writer and director. It is set in the summer of 1964 and tells the
story of the rise and fall of a rock band. (Hanks is known for his love
of classic rock). The four young men involved bear certain similarities
to The Beatles, although they are not from Liverpool but from Erie,
Pennsylvania. The title is also that of the group's first hit single,
although for some reason the film title is spelt with and the record
title without an exclamation mark.
The four are Jimmy Mattingly, Lenny Haise, Guy Patterson and "T. B. Player"- we never learn his real name; those initials simply stand for The Bass Player. (The surnames "Haise" and "Mattingly" are references to the film "Apollo XIII" in which Hanks also starred; Fred Haise was one of the astronauts on Apollo XIII, and Ken Mattingly should have flown on the mission but had to withdraw through illness). Guy, the drummer, is a late replacement for the original drummer who is injured in a road accident. The four together form a group called "The Oneders", pronounced "The Wonders" but frequently mispronounced as the "oh-NEE-ders". The choice of name was based on the theory that all successful groups, like The Beatles, should have a deliberate misspelling in their name. (To judge from The Byrds, The Monkees and Led Zeppelin, there might be something in this theory).
The Oneders achieve quick success. They win a local talent show, release a single of "That Thing You Do", start getting paying gigs and are eventually signed up by a major record company named Play-Tone Records. The Wonders (by now the spelling of their name has been simplified) tour state fairs across the Midwest and their record enters the Billboard Top 100. When the song enters the Top 10, Play-Tone arrange for the group to appear on a prime-time variety show on national television.
Then it all goes wrong. It generally does. It is something of a cliché in films about fictitious showbiz acts that early success has to be paid for in later failure or disillusionment. A good example is the 1970s British film "Stardust" about a rock idol who ends up an unhappy, drug-addicted recluse. The Wonders do not fall from grace in quite such a spectacular fashion but a series of disagreements lead to their splitting up soon after their television debut; their choice of name proves to have been sadly prophetic as they end up as no more than one-hit wonders. A written epilogue tells us what became of the four members in later years. (This device was possibly borrowed from "American Graffiti", another film about young men of this period).
The film's great strength is the way in which it conjures up the spirit of the sixties and the joyous optimism of the popular music of the period. Films about pop music do not always achieve this- The Stray Cats, the fictitious band in "Stardust", might be based upon The Beatles but certainly don't sound like them and the music provided for them to play is generally dull and lacklustre. The music in this film, however, is a much more convincing imitation of sixties pop, and "That Thing You Do" itself is a cheerfully catchy number that would not disgrace Lennon and McCartney themselves. The film's most memorably joyful scene is the one where Guy and his friends start singing and dancing while listening to the song on the radio in his father's electrical appliance store where he works.
The film's main weakness is that it neglects character development, so we do not really understand the tensions which lead to the group's splitting up. It is never really explained why Jimmy, who has hitherto seemed the most serious of the four about the band and his music, should suddenly behave like such a jerk towards both the record company and his girlfriend Faye. (Or, for that matter, why the record company- as we learn in the epilogue- should have given him a second chance with a new band). It is never explained why Faye should have got together with Guy so soon after splitting up with Jimmy or why Guy 's earlier girlfriend Tina should have become the only woman in recorded history to dump a rock musician for a dentist. It is never explained why Lenny should have walked out on the group to elope with a former Bunny girl. (Wouldn't his obviously mercenary new wife have been happier with a successful rock star than with an unsuccessful ex-rock star?) And why was the character of the bass player left so underdeveloped? None of this, however, is the fault of the four young actors who play the members of the group. Although none of them has gone on to become a real household name- perhaps ironically in view of the fact that the film is about a band who fail to find lasting success- they all play their parts here very well. The two actors who have gone on to become famous are the two female leads, Liv Tyler as Faye and Charlize Theron as Tina, neither of whom make much impact in the film itself.
Strangely enough, the lack of credible characters may not be the fault of Tom Hanks either. I understand that in 2007 he released an extended director's cut of the movie; although I have never seen this I understand that it is more than half an hour longer than the theatrically released version and that it does concentrate more on character development. The weaknesses of the version I recently saw on British television, therefore, might be due to over-enthusiastic pruning for theatrical release. I therefore award the film a provisional 7/10, with the option of revising that once I have seen Hanks' version.
A garage band in Erie, PA loses their drummer to a broken arm, where
Everett Scott steps in and takes over, picking up the pace on a song
originally meant to be a ballad. Even though his band mates have mixed
feelings on the decision, it rockets to the stars in a number one
single and from there, the sky's the limit for the "oh-nay-ders." This
is the first time I've seen this film and I wished I would have seen it
earlier. I don't know why, but it just didn't appeal to me, but I sat
down earlier this morning and watched it. Following the band was easy
throughout the film and the heartache everyone faces in their
respective careers tugged a little bit at my heartstrings.
Hands down, one of the better movies in 1996, a time when I was trying to pick myself up and dust myself off, and a time when I should have taken the time to sit down and actually watch this film, instead of waiting almost thirteen years.
Oh, and about my opening summary, the one thing that could have made this movie a little better for people just as old as me or a little older would have been a scene where the "Bosom Buddies" co-stars, writer Hanks and Peter Scolari, could have appeared together. So close and yet so far! 8 out of 10 stars!
Tom Hanks Outdid himself in 1996 with that thing you do. The story is simple the acting is..Magic. singled out is Liv Taylor for her role as Kay the girlfriend of the leader of the Wonders and as their fame grows She alone Grows up. It's not to the end when Guy Patterson (Nicely played by Tom Everett Scott) Grows up as well. This movie shows us a age that most of us had forgotten or never knew existed to most people the sixties music scene was The Beatles or the British invasion or..Woodstock. Tom Hanks quietly reminds us that this was not so. This is a America where JFK was president Working on Sunday was simply unthinkable and Rock and Roll was starting to come into it's own as The soundtrack for a generation. The story could be clichéd but in Hanks's Able hands it becomes Magic. The local Band needs a drummer after their drummer breaks his hand and so they recruit Guy Patterson the son of a local furniture store owner and Guy a lifelong Jazz fan joins them. The leader is a moody young man named Jimmy and in the Wonders first show his slow Ballad That thing you do is Turned into a Rocking number by Guy and it becomes a Major Fan fave. Soon that Thing you do becomes a hit record and the Wonders MUST adjust to the temptations of fickle fate. Tom Hanks role of the record company talent scout/manager/mentor is wonderfully underplayed This is not his movie and he knows it having written and produced and Directed that thing you do. Hanks knows this movie belongs to the Wonders and he gives them enough room to grow. The music is totally original but sounds as if it came from a Rock-Ola time machine jukebox. Hanks makes no missteps in this one. This is a wonderfully thought out story. This movie was to me a love letter to a bygone age that we will never see again. Thank you Tom Hanks for a Wonderful movie going experience.
Even though is full of clichés "the wonders" is such a fresh and funny
movie, optimistic and with a nice rhythm. Plus it's full of nice music
(not only the hit "That thing you do") and the production design is as
good as it's expected from a big studio product. It's impossible that
you get boring watching it.
Maybe the way that Hanks portraits that rock and roll band is rather idealistic, but that's him: the king of the comedy for the family, the son of America. Anyway, I think he did a good job considering it was her first movie as director. Also one never gets tired of watching Liv Tyler's big smile. Too bad her c.v. is full of romantic comedies an stuff.
*My rate: 7/10
Love the flick, but something bothered me recently when I caught it on
The year is, what, 1964, '65? "Del Paxton" is obviously a bebop-era jazz pianist. Trouble is, the character is about 60 (that's the age of the actor who played him at the time the movie was made, anyway).
That means he would have been born around 1905. He would have been active during the "Roaring 20s," and during the "Swing" era. I doubt that he would have made a transition to "bebop" by that time. Those guys were all born in the 20s and 30s, so the character of "Paxton" is really about twenty years TOO OLD for the era in what "That Thing You Do" takes place.
"That Thing You Do!" represents any music band's dream of having a
successful career along with a song to take them to fame and rising to
downfalls at the same time. The film is about a drummer name Guy
Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) who works at his father's appliance store
while his friends are out there having a good time in a rock band with
no title to call themselves. Guy is needed for his gift after the
band's drummer Chad (Giovanni Ribisi) breaks his arm where they perform
their song "That Thing You Do!" at a local high school gymnasium and
become an instant hit. The band members include Jimmy (Jonathan
Schaech), the lead vocals and lead guitarist, Lenny (the hilarious
Steve Zahn), the second guitarists and vocals who happens to be the
comic relief and smart-ass of the group, and T.B. Player (The Bass
Player, played by Ethan Embry) where they have a groupie, Jimmy's
girlfriend Faye (The lovely Liv Tyler). After being a success by
singing their famous song through various places including a pizza
parlor, the new band who call themselves The Wonders, find a manager
where they go through a cheap gig before the big guns comes to the
Mr. White (played by Tom Hanks) replaces their formal manager and heads the band into a tour with other famous singers. From there the band gets to find out the ups and downs of being in a band where members decided to leave, girls get in the way along with some of them from home break up with them (ex. Guy's girlfriend leaves him for the dentist) and nobody wants to follow the rules.
The film was directed by Tom Hanks where not only does he show what goes on in a band, but brings back the atmosphere of the 1960's where it feels like I'm watching a document about the American version of The Beatles. Plus, the soundtrack itself is hot! I'd still play the songs from the fictional band on my CD player, thinking to myself that they're only pretend and not real. Yet, the songs are a classic just like this movie. Now go put on some shades and watch this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tom Hanks' writing and directorial debut, 'That Thing You Do!', will probably not go down in history as a classic along the lines of 'Forrest Gump' or 'Saving Private Ryan,' but I find it one of those movies I love to revisit every six months or so. It has an easy-going charm about it, low-key and yet wonderfully evocative of the period it presents, that magical year of 1964, after the Beatles had arrived and changed music forever, and every teenage kid wanted to start his own rock band. 'That Thing You Do!' was a modest success at the box-office, and the critics were generally kind to Hanks' first try at directing. Just below the surface, though, one could tell people were surprised and in some cases disappointed that his initial effort wasn't somehow more substantial, or biting, or something. I take it these people were someplace else in 1964. In the film, Jimmy (Jonathan Schaech) is the one who starts the band, the one with big dreams and a fair amount of talent. The other three band members are pretty much along for the ride, wherever it leads them, and if it doesn't lead anywhere, that's okay... they weren't doing anything anyway. Lenny (Steve Zahn) is the goofy lead guitarist; there's the unnamed bass player (Ethan Embry) who's even goofier (listed in the credits as T.B. Player; clever how they go through the whole movie without calling him by name); and the drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott), who is a last-minute replacement for their regular drummer after he falls off a parking meter and breaks his arm. Guy is in his own way just as much a music buff as Jimmy, but his love is jazz. He doesn't much care for the pop/rock the group (newly dubbed the Oneders, hopefully pronounced Wonders) but he enjoys their taste of success and playing for the enthusiastic crowds that grow larger as the film progresses. Guy's not the leader or control freak that Jimmy is; he emerges though as the heart of the band and is, ironically, the last one left standing at the end of it all. Also along for the ride is Faye (Liv Tyler), Jimmy's girlfriend and the Oneders' number one fan. In an early role, Charlize Theron plays Tina, Guy's girlfriend (if only briefly). If only her part was as memorable as her looks. The band makes a record of Jimmy's song 'That Thing You Do!', and after it gets some radio play in their hometown, they are noticed by Mr. White (Tom Hanks), an exec at Playtone Records who becomes their manager. One of his first decisions is to change the name of the band to the Wonders. People kept calling them "the Oh-need-ers" and it was getting confusing. From there, the film takes us on a predictable but very enjoyable ride as the song climbs the charts and the Wonders grow in popularity, playing to larger and larger crowds, finally culminating in them appearing on a big network variety show. The song, by the way, is a great little tune, very Beatle-ish, and almost criminally catchy. I don't know how many times it's played in the film, in part or in whole (I would guess about a dozen) and it changes subtly over the course of the movie, bits added for extended versions... in any event, it will be buzzing around in your head for at least a week or so after seeing the film. In what has in reality been the case more times than most people realize, the Wonders break up just as 'That Thing You Do!' peaks at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Jimmy quits in a fit of pique, his artistic vanity wounded when White tells him he only gets to write two songs per album. Lenny marries a blonde secretary in Las Vegas. The bass player joins the Marines. That leaves Guy to face Mr. White alone, who tells him the Wonders are in breach of contract, but it's no big deal. Happens all the time, White says... to one-hit wonders.
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