living in

Living In: That Thing You Do!

by Maxwell Tielman

As a child, my sister possessed several ritualistic tendencies that one might categorize as obsessive. The act of making her bed, for example, involved using about ten separate blankets, each laid symmetrically upon her mattress. When getting ready for school, she set two alarms, with one that would go off at 4:30 so she could shower, return to sleep, and then wake up no earlier than she had to. One of her more peculiar (and public) ritualized behaviors, though, was her habit of watching the film That Thing You Do! in its entirety every single day after school. This might have been because my family didn’t have cable and it was one of the few VHS tapes that we owned, but I like to think that this daily activity was a testament to the film’s quality—it never gets old! Although I occasionally tired of my sister’s limited movie appetite, I have to admit that I, too, was often coerced into joining her daily viewing. Even today, nearly 20 years after its creation, this film seems as fresh and relevant as the day it was made.

Films made by actors are oftentimes written off as vanity pieces, but That Thing You Do, written and directed by Tom Hanks, is a treasure. Set during the 1960s, the film follows drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) and his band, The Wonders, as they rise from obscurity in Erie, PA to superstardom over the course of a summer. At once a delightful throwback musical and parable about the perils of fame, the film features dazzling set designs and some of the best original music I’ve ever heard in a film. To this day, the film’s title track never fails to put me in a great mood. —Max

1. Rayban Wayfarer Sunglasses | 2. Fender Mark Hoppus Bass Guitar | 3. Blue Suit | 4. Confetti System Garland | 5. Vintage Transistor Radio | 6. Loveseat | 7. Gretsch Drumset

1. Blumarine Gold Leaf Cocktail Dress | 2. Sharpie Marker | 3. Writing Pad | 4. Easy Chair | 5. Yellow Record Player | 6. Pink Princess Phone | 7. Alarm Clock | 8. United States Chalkboard Map

Film: That Thing You Do!

Year: 1996

Director: Tom Hanks

Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Tom Hanks, Steve Zahn, Jonathan Schaech, Ethan Embry, Charlize Theron

Production Design: Victor Kempster

Art Direction: Dan Webster

Set Decoration: Merideth Boswell

Costume Design: Colleen Atwood

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  • I loved the movie That Thing You Do. I’ve been looking for a cool transistor radio for retro music playing. I have an old vintage camper I’m restoring that would work well. Thanks for the post : )

  • Absolutely love this movie! The soundtrack is still something that I’ll throw on while I’m cleaning my place! Awesome piece!

  • Totally obsessed with this movie! Fay might be the name of my firstborn…Jokes aside, the design and fashion inspiration is spot on. Love this post!

  • I loved that movie and need to re-watch. My favorite scene is when they hear their song on the radio for the first time and dance around the appliance store, turning on all the radios. Such fun! But….your sister. How’s she doing? Tell me she isn’t still waking at 4:30 to shower.

  • I… I can’t believe it … I also watched this movie every single day in my middle school days. Every. single. day. Thanks for featuring it. Also, a tip to all the other fans that don’t know, the directors cut came out much later and it’s almost 2.5 hours long! The story actually changes a lot … you have to see it. Mr. White is gay!!!

  • I think it was this movie that kicked off my love for everything 60s. I was 10 when it came out! Liv Tylers clothes, the music, the cars and furniture. Such a fun and happy movie!

  • I remember hearing an interview with Liv Tyler when this movie came out. She said it was such a fun group of people to work with that when she got home in the evenings, her face would be tired from laughing so hard.

  • One of the best movies, with the best OST’s ever !!! I used to listen to the OST CD all the time and knew all the lyrics by heart !!!

    Awesome post !! thank you !! <3 <3 <3

  • That is a great feel good movie. You have nailed the essence with your picks! My favorite pick is the record player. There is just something special about manually putting a record on the record player; hearing the static as it starts to play, the actual feel of the needle dropping gently into the groove, as your favorite tune fills the room. That always make me feel good and happy.

  • Wow thanks for the flashback! I love this movie , my mum was mad about it too! We used to play the hell out of the soundtrack!.”………Well I try and try to forget you girl! But its just so hard to do! Everytime you do that thing you do!”
    haha great songs and memories!

  • LOVE this movie. It actually came out in 1996 which isn’t quite 20 years (omg that makes me feel way old) but it’s still been quite some time! I was actually in a 60’s girl group in High School and I totally wanted to be like the characters in this film. Great style, great movie, great choice!

    xo Kimmay

  • I date my deep and abiding crush on Steve Zahn to this movie. Still rock out to the awesome soundtrack, too.

  • love it? heck, i lived it! as a DAD from the 60’s era, it was a joy to me that my now 25ish daughters loved the movie, the music and the lifestyles! now where did i put that old transister radio……?

  • I was a student at Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA (site of the Wonders first gig) in 1996. We were all pretty disappointed that all of the scenes they filmed on our gorgeous campus were cut. I actually disliked the movie then, but who knows, I was in my grunge & riot grrrl phase. Maybe it’s worth a revisit!

  • Love this film. Also, one of the last to shoot at the famous (and now destroyed) Ambassador Hotel.

    The music is solid – I now have the title song in my head – was written and performed by Fountains of Wayne I think. Tom Hanks can be very proud of this film. Its pretty perfect. I watch it everytime its on :D

  • Love love LOVE this movie!

    I just saw the extended cut and noticed that’s it’s on the list of free outdoor movies this summer. I have to go see it (again)!!

  • LOVE That Thing You Do! The cheery music, cultural portrayal, and pop art design culture is so well done in this film! I almost can’t believe it’s been around for 20 years (although I first saw it between ten and fifteen years ago…)

    I can’t get enough of this one. What a great Living In selection!

  • I love love love this movie and am so glad you featured it here. Funny enough, my grocery store was playing a cover of this last night, which I certainly don’t expect 17 years after the movie came out. Maybe it’s becoming a cult classic? ;-)

  • Yay! Since I first found this column a few years ago, I was hoping that this little gem of a movie would be covered! One of my absolute favorite feel-good movies, that never gets tired (‘Shag’ is another one). Liv’s entire look is to die for. I’m always on the lookout for a train case like hers. “Well, I like Wisconsin!”

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