Jennifer Anne Martin
BTS: "That Thing You Do!"
After a couple week hiatus as I worked on set (more on that next week), I got thinking about one of my favorite movies from the late 90s, That Thing You Do!
That Thing You Do! is a cult classic that was released in 1996 from a little known writer/director/actor/amazing guy named Tom Hanks. The film follows the journey of a backyard band in the 60s who strike it big with their hit song, "That Thing You Do!". The film chronicles the rise and fall of the group, and a bit beyond. In addition to writing and directing the film, Hanks plays a supporting role as the band's manager, and his involvement is what drew me in to begin with -- although, I am a sucker for stories set in that era, too.
While the film is enjoyable, and you become invested in the band's story, what stands out most is the music. This is a soundtrack I enjoy listening to and I still get giddy hearing the first drum beats of the song, taking me back to a much simpler time. It's a song I hold close to my heart as it was the song my (11 year) younger brother and I would jam out to in the car, and the one he and I danced to at my wedding. The nostalgia I get from the song and film is similar to that which brought it to life as Hanks wrote the movie as a tribute to the rock bands of the 60s.
The movie succeeds in paying homage to the early rock bands. It's fun watching Tom Everett Scott, Steve Zhan, Ethan Embry, and Jonathan Schaech play as the band, and their musical performances are convincing. But like most things in Hollywood, it's all an act. The quartet did take individual and group lessons on their respective instruments, though, and it's been said that even extras on the set thought they were the real deal. As for the voices behind the song, they, too, were not the on-screen faces.
Adam Schlesinger (who sadly passed away in April from complications of COVID-19) wrote and performed the hit song along with bandmates from "Fountains of Wayne" and "Ivy", with Mike Viola on lead vocals. The song garnered Golden Globe and Academy Award nods, and was a big break for Schlesinger. He went on to have a successful musical career, which included songwriting and executive producing for The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Hanks also penned some of the songs, amongst several others.
When I look back on this movie, it takes me to a time when life was so different and my naivety so innocent, which is really the same place the band's journey begins at the start of the film. I relate more now to the journey they take and the reality of unmet expectations than I did as a teen, but, it's always fun looking back on the good times, and bopping along to "That Thing You Do!".