Old Lady Movie Night: “That Thing You Do!”

Old Lady Movie Night is a weekly (or so I try) column in which we gather, dressed like grandmothers, and watch/criticize movies in the spirit of, say, Dorothy Zbornak. (If she were in her 70s and 80s.) You’re not old if you like these movies, you’re not old if you know them. But sometimes I like to think of myself as the cat lady on The Simpsons who throws cats at people while wearing cardigans.

It’s important that all of you know just how much I love Tom Hanks. Do you know? DO YOU? I hope you do, because otherwise this is a terrible first impression and I’m 100% sure that I can’t possibly come back from it.

But if you’re aware of my T-Hanks adoration, then you understand. You understand You’ve Got Mail and you understand what it felt to be 11 years old and filled with delight that unlike Forrest Gump (which wasn’t exactly a laugh-happy cinematic event), That Thing You Do! delivered Tom Hanks in a comedic and joyful context circa ’95-’96.

I don’t think we talk about That Thing You Do! enough. And I mean any of us. Like, you. Reading this right now. Do you actively think about That Thing You Do!? (That looks like I’m very, very, very enthusiastic about this question. I am, but . . . nah, no. I am.) Of course you don’t. So this is our opportunity to think about it for 15 or so full minutes. (One point per one minute, naturally.) This is a safe space. A place in which that thing is thinking about Tom Hanks.

What if the song was just about somebody who couldn’t stop thinking about Tom Hanks. Oh boy. Look what I’ve started. Let’s do this.

1. “That Thing You Do!” is one of the greatest songs ever written for a movie

It is a JAM. It is a GIFT. I haven’t read The Giver, but if he delivered “That Thing You Do!” to the minds of human beings, I get why everyone’s so psyched for the movie. You listen to this song, and you think, “Yes. Yes I am invested in these people and in this decade and hell, I’m even invested in myself.” I don’t even know what that means, but it doesn’t matter. Just like listening to this soundtrack every night when I was in grade six wasn’t something I over-thought either. And speaking of which…

2. That Thing You Do! gave us one of the greatest soundtracks ever for a movie

And some of these are MADE UP SONGS. Like, they exist specifically for this movie. And do you know what? They’re amazing! They are better than most songs that exist specifically for outside a movie. I mean, I loved “Let Go” from Frozen, but if That Thing You Do! swept the Oscars and Best Song every year, I would only NOT be upset, I’d be thrilled. Particularly “All My Only Dreams” by The Wonders which is, again, a song performed by actors, but one I listened to as a kid and thought, “This is exactly what it’s like to be grown-up and have a boyfriend.”

Evidently, it is not. BUT! For those two minutes and 54 seconds, I believe it is.

3. So let’s get on with the movie: The One-Ders?

I mean, COME ON, Jimmy. What’s wrong with you? Who would do that? Who would honestly name their band that? Would no one else in the band say, “Hey bud. No.” That’s all they’d have to say. And I mean, what could Jimmy do? Quit? They weren’t even famous yet! He didn’t have any other friends! Here’s the first problem: somebody who wanted to name his band “The One-Ders” (or something — honestly this might be totally wrong and I don’t even care Jimmy deserves nothing but my wrath) was in charge. Ultimately, they were doomed. Because frankly, he was the idiot king (TM).

And yes, I know Liv Tyler TECHNICALLY suggested the band name, but Jimmy could’ve been like, “Girl what an excellent idea now let’s all talk spelling.”

4. And then there’s SHADES

I have had a lot of movie star crushes. I still have a lot of movie star crushes. And deep down, in my hardest of hearts, I think to myself, “Yes, and I will marry them ALL one day.” I have no idea how that will happen because Leonardo DiCaprio won’t answer me back on Twitter, and Harrison Ford is in his 70s, but that’s not the point. What is the point is that Tom Everett Scott was a man after my own heart in this movie, but especially once he put on his sunglasses and drummed. ALSO, he kind of looked like a guy I went to high school with, so ultimately, I was doomed. Guy Patterson, I will always love you. Tom Everett Scott, ditto. Guy from high school . . . you would’ve named your band The One-Ders.

5. Remember how mad Jimmy gets about Shades playing the tempo quickly, though?

In the words of Hermione Granger, what. an. idiot. In no way, shape, or form was he ready for the wide world of rock and/or roll. Do any of us listen to “That Thing You Do!” and think, “Man, I just wish it was SLOWER.” Only an absolute monster would think a thought even similar. And Jimmy was an absolute monster, so like the spelling of The Oneders, we should’ve known. We all should’ve known.

6. But then Tom Hanks strolls in and correct, it’s business time

Business in that Tom Hanks is serious about stealing our hearts and also making these teen (or 20-something?) boys famous. It is all business, all the time. “Put on sunglasses!” he tells Guy. “And keep them on!” Hey. Already we’re off to the races. Then, he’s all “And another thing — your band name is insane, what’s wrong with you?” And Jimmy’s all, “HEY! That’s our BAND NAME!” and everybody counts on their hands how many times they wish Jimmy had been replaced with Liv Tyler because she would’ve been a far better band leader.

7. We’ve all been Liv Tyler’s Faye

ALL OF US. Sweet, wonderful Faye. We’ve all liked guys who are just terrible, but still did literally anything they asked us to do. One time, I used my hard-earned McDonalds money to buy hair dye for this guy because for some reason I believed that was going to be the thing that brought us closer. And it was, in that it led to me dying his hair blue in his basement. While his friend was over, and they ignored me. BUT ultimately, I at least have a story for all of you, and can watch That Thing You Do! and rightfully shout “Faye, get out! Hurry! There isn’t time!”

8. The “success” montage plays in my head religiously

You know the montage. Of course you know the montage. We all know the montage because we are sweet, sweet treasures who get the true meaning of success: a montage. If you have made it, in any capacity, you get a montage. Even if it’s just in your head, it’s yours. In this case, we watch as The Wonders climb the charts and drive around the country with the Playtone record label, and Steve Zahn and Ethan Embry go to Disneyworld (they do, right?) and Jimmy falls more and more in love with himself, and Guy and Faye become better friends, and the whole world pledges allegiance to their blessed band. (As we all did and still do, while hoping somehow they’ll make more music again.)


9. AS IF Jimmy ignores Faye as she’s left behind in the crowd, though

But then there’s this scene. In the midst of the Beatles-like response to “That Thing You Do!” laaaaaaaaaayyyydies (you have to shout it or it doesn’t count) swarm the car, and in the pandemonium Faye gets left behind until Guy’s like, “Yo, what the hell?” Like, THANK YOU, GUY for being a human person with eyes (even if they are hiding behind sunglasses). Meanwhile, even Tom Hanks is like, “Jimmy, you freak” even if he doesn’t actually say it. We know he wants to because we want to. And are. Because what kind of person leaves another person outside of their “famous people” car? (Answer: the devil and/or possibly Voldemort.)

10. “Careful girls, he’s engaged!”

First of all, even if you hate another human being, you don’t need to LOSE YOUR COOL in the green room after it’s been suggested that you are married to that person. Particularly if you are losing your cool in front of that person, and that person is actually not somebody you hate, but somebody you are dating. Can you image. Can you even imagine. “But I wanted to sleep with as many people as possible!” Jimmy says without saying it. To which Faye responds…

11. With something about wasting kisses on him

YA BURNT, JIMMY. I have to say that might be one of the cruellest things you could say to a person other than “UGH I AM NOT ENGAGED GROSS TAKE THAT OFF THE TV” but let’s be serious: Jimmy deserved it. He deserved a lot more, actually. Faye shows up, and she’s sick, and she’s tired, and she’s sacrificed her life to be with this clown, and he blows up because the idea of marrying her is that appalling. I’m not saying you even need to marry her. I’m not saying anybody needs to get married. I’m not even saying anybody needs to date. But Jimmy, come on. Also: Faye. You rule. Get away from this horrible human.

12. And she does! RIGHT INTO GUY’S ARMS

Which is the only confusing thing. Like: did they like each other the whole time and just didn’t know? Was she confused when she was with Jimmy? And if she was, maybe then the engagement post freak-out wasn’t the worst thing because it was an out? Or was Guy a rebound thing that turned into a lifetime commitment? I want to know a lot more about this than was given. Like, I actually would like a movie about just this. Also, about Tom Hanks and what it took for him to become a music manager, and how he fared after, and also whether or not he would like to hang out sometime. (Platonically! Relax, guys. Tom + Rita = 4 Ever)

13. “I… quit!” *snap snap*

When my friends and I rented this one Easter weekend (from a video store like proper ’90s individuals), we were obsessed with Jimmy’s quitting song. “How obsessed?” you ask, somewhere, in front of your computer, perhaps in your home. So obsessed we would snap our fingers ala Jimmy at will and declare, “IIIIIIII quit! I quit! I quit!” So I vowed, silently, to one day quit a job that way. Unfortunately, I have not. BUT! I have quit for friends over the phone in a manner much similarly: “Hey… I quit.”

This is when I realize I may have been a teenage girl Jimmy and just didn’t know. *Logs off Internet and names her band The Oneders*


I honestly can’t tell you how much I love and appreciate an epilogue. Honestly, if you ever want to get me a really good birthday present, please deliver some sort of epilogue regarding people I know, knew, or care(d) about. Case in point: I love that I know EXACTLY what happened to everybody in this movie, including Jimmy who OF COURSE went on to become a producer because he was out of his mind. I love knowing Faye and Guy got married, and that Steve Zahn opened a casino, and that Ethan Embry survived the war. THIS IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION. Honestly, every movie that is worth watching gives you a little something-something in the end. Even Titanic. ESPECIALLY Titanic. (And my personal epilogue ends with, “And Leo realized he didn’t need to date models anymore: he was fine with the 28-year-old equivalent of Colleen Donaghy.)

15. Why don’t we talk more about That Thing You Do!?

And yes, that question was asked with intense enthusiasm. What are we doing? What’s our problem? Are we “too cool” for a “feel-great film” about “music” and starring “Tom Hanks”? Do we think we’re above it? How many more years do we have to go before it’s “cool” enough to say “I LOVE That Thing You Do!” Like what, six months? Four years? Too bad: I’m saying it. This movie is amazing. It is a gift. And I want to watch it right now, but I can’t, because I don’t own the DVD. But I’ll give you three guesses as to what I’ll be purchasing over the next 24 hours: American Hustle. But also this. Two movies with epilogues. And terrific hair. Now…. *snaps fingers*

I quit!*

*Not really. I just really wanted to end a conversation like that for once.

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