We haven’t had one of these in a while, have we? In the lead up to the release of Star Dust, I want to spotlight romantic movies set in the 1960s or produced in the 60s. First up is Tom Hanks’s (yes, that guy) music rom-com That Thing You Do! (1996).
I’ve had a soft-spot in my heart for this movie since I went on my first-ever dates to it. But a recent article at UPROXX reminded me how stinking charming it is. Our basic story: the drummer of a small-time band in 1964 Erie, PA, breaks his arm. A new guy (Tom Everett Scott) steps in, convinces them to make their big song more up-tempo, and the next thing they know, they’re in possession of a hit record and a recording contract. The band’s handsome front man (Johnathan Scheach) treats his girlfriend (Liv Tyler) like crap, so when the band inevitably falls apart weeks later, we cheer when his girlfriend and the new drummer ride off into the sunset together.
It’s an insubstantial confection of a movie, but it works because of the pitch-perfect recreation of the 60s. The sets, the costumes, and above all the music, are perfection. There is the catchy as hell title track, but I also like the slow-dance B-side “All My Only Dreams.” The entire soundtrack (which I own) is a 60s sound-alike wonder. The movie also gets the sheer fantasticalness of success right. The scene in which the band plays a fictional version of The Ed Sullivan Show is just joyful. We know it can’t last; we don’t really want it to. But gosh, it’s a fun ride.
In terms of the romance, Liv Tyler has never been lovelier on screen than she is here. And Tom Everett Scott is delightful and kind; the absolute best version of a beta hero. When they finally confess their feelings (and share one hell of a kiss) it has more of a jolt than you’d expect from something this frothy.
That Thing You Do! is an amuse bouche for your ears and a lovely invocation of the 60s. I commend it to you tonight.