Continuing with this series of 47 moments in film that I love. (Why 47?) Today we hit #4, with a movie that may only be good, not great, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some great moments!
That Thing You Do! (1996)
Directed by: Tom Hanks
In the early 1960’s, a small-time band makes it big, but find that they all respond to the realities of fame in different ways, ultimately driving them apart.
The Oneders (pronounced “Wonders”) have come into local popularity when their drummer breaks his arm and is replaced by Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott). Guy changes the tempo of the band’s slow ballad (the titular song, That Thing You Do), creating a local hit. This leads to paying gigs, and signing a manager, and then, a shot at getting the song onto the radio…
Bandleader Jimmy’s girlfriend, Faye, is mailing some letters while continuing to listen to the radio. Suddenly, the DJ announces their song, and That Thing You Do begins to play on the radio for the first time. After hastily stuffing her letters into the mailbox, Faye runs down the street, overcome with the thrill of it all. She runs into the bass player (amusingly referred to only as “T.B. Player”), and he joins in the excitement. Together they go to the store that Guy works at, where they turn on every radio and start to dance to the sound of their own song. The other band members turns up and the whole thing just turns into a big dance party at the store, ending with Gus yelling out his catchphrase, “I am Spartacus!!”
The scene captures instant in time when everything is the best it could possibly be for our main characters. The lively camerawork, the fun editing, and a bunch of enthusiastic performances all combine to capture a perfect moment. Of course, an essential element is the accompanying musical piece, written in reality by Adam Schlesinger. The song’s upbeat tempo and catchy melody perfectly reflects the raw joy that the characters are feeling. But ultimately what sells it all is the incredible energy of the actors. Liv Tyler (as Faye), Ethan Embry (as the Bass Player), Steve Zahn, Johnathon Schaech and Tom Everett Scott all bring the energy that the scene needs.
The debut of their song on the radio leads to greater fame and glory for the Wonders (as they are renamed), but that fame leads to their eventual downfall as a band. Before they ever record their second song, the entire group ends up going their separate ways, but as Guy learns from his musical idol later in the film, “Ain’t no way to keep a band together. Bands come and go. You got to keep on playin’, no matter with who.”