There’s a trick to figuring out how long to wait before you go to a website and start trying to talk rationally about a movie. Too soon, and you really haven’t digested and assimilated it yet. Wait too long, and you start forgetting everything that actually happened. It’s different for each movie. And it doesn’t seem to depend on the movie’s heft. They all just take their own time.
Way back in ’96 Tom Hanks wrote and directed a film called That Thing You Do! It’s about a band from Erie, Indiana Pennsylvania that has a hit pop song. It’s a catchy song. You hear it a dozen times in the film, and it doesn’t get old.
The dad from Donnie Darko is here, playing the dad. In The Dreamer (Based on a True Story) he played the vet. He’s trapped playing three letter characters I guess. Peter Scolari, from Tom’s Bossom Buddies days, plays a TV show host. There seemed to be other blasts from Tom’s past appearing in other places, but I’ve waited too long to talk about it and I’m forgetting all the details. Clint Howard plays a jazz DJ.
I watched the Extended Cut which is like 2-1/2 hours long. That’s pretty long for a 90 minute comedy. But it was worth it. The movie didn’t feel like a cookie cutter comedy. It had it’s own rhythm, and best of all some quiet spots. I’m afraid to watch the released-to-theaters version now. It must have been heart-breaking for Tom to edit it down. On the other hand, Spartacus (from 1960) is about three hours long. So I guess every movie has its length.
Tom did a great job of giving each character a character. Whether it’s the rhythm guitar player or the doorman, you know each of them about as well as they’re able to be known.
The most inscrutable character is the one that Tom plays, the corporate manager for the group. He reminds me of Agent Smith in the Matrix. I see this as Tom’s take on show business. First of all, it’s a business. Second, it’s all for show. You can try to argue with that, but you won’t win. “And you are the smart one. That’s what I think, anyway.”
This would be a great movie to watch before watching anything by the Beatles. (Or even Robert Zemeckis’ first movie, I Wanna Hold Your Hand.) It would help put things in perspective. It does a good job of showing teenage hysteria of the early ’60s.
Over on Amazon’s review page, Jim Emerson’s review suggests a double-feature with Grace of My Heart. What a great idea! The woman in that movie is actually successful in the music industry! I need to re-watch it so I can post a cross-linked review. While That Thing You Do! is totally fictional (as far as I can tell), Grace of My Heart is (Based on a True Story) about the Brill building folks. You end up with cream of condensed Phil Spectre and Don Kirshner, never quite sure where one ends and the next begins. But it’s still pretty educational. And the music is really awesome.
So what are you waiting for? Go do That Thing You Do!