The Oneders turn 25
October 3, 2021 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Did you enjoy the movie That Thing You Do? Then you might also enjoy this oral history of That Thing You Do. Find out things you've always wanted to know, such as: Who got dysentery? Who went on a date with Madonna? Is Tom Hanks an awful person? And what's the bass player's name?
posted by amarynth (42 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Without opening the link yet and having not seen the movie since it was in theatres, the credited name for the Bass player was "T.B. Player," a detail which I really loved.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:27 AM on October 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Dude. Tobias.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:30 AM on October 3, 2021

Spoiler alert: Tom Hanks is not an awful person. Fred Rogers meets Bob Ross. "He was the nicest human being I’d ever met. If I was gloom-and-doom-y, he would always cheer me up, do a little dance." At one point Tom notices that Steve Zahn's mom is visiting the set and asks her what she thinks about a scene with Lenny in it.
posted by TreeRooster at 8:49 AM on October 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

I watched this again a few weeks ago and what it nails is the thrill of being young and in a band and just getting to play what you love playing. I was never in a band that made a record record record, or got on the radio, but I was in enough bands to occasionally know the excitement of playing a song through and hearing the (in my case, very small) crowd go wild and just thinking "well, I want to keep doing this!"

That it's all so inconsequential is the point: it's a few months in the life of some friends who have a hit, appear in a bad movie and then split up. The typical rock biopic makes it all seem so serious, but even when the Oneders are splitting up they're still really just enjoying the ride. It doesn't really matter. As Mr White says at the end "nobody's going to jail."

And the song is so important to it, and also the way Hanks uses it. We only ever get the whole song twice. The rest of the time it's fragments, so we in the audience never tire of it. But having heard it once we're so keen to hear it again.
posted by YoungStencil at 8:52 AM on October 3, 2021 [14 favorites]

I'm one of the few who paid to see this in the theater, and it's a really great film. Part of the brilliance of it is, you actually only hear the entire song once or twice through during the film. It's always interrupted somehow, so even while it's omnipresent, you really never hear it enough to get beyond the "wow this is catchy" part of hearing it.

Thanks for posting this! A great little read for a quiet morning.
posted by hippybear at 8:54 AM on October 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

Or, yeah, what they said.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 AM on October 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

hippybear, I saw it in the theater too! I actually only saw it in the theater; I've never watched it since. I guess I was ten or eleven years old and my friends and I were so excited about the cast. I haven't thought much about it since, to be honest, but I still remember the tune and that scene where they first hear themselves on the radio. We were all just aghast it had been written for the movie because it felt so much like actual oldies radio.
posted by potrzebie at 9:03 AM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

And, if I may, another thing I love about this. I know the actors are just miming to playback, but they're doing it well enough, and Hanks the director takes enough care to show how all the parts fit together, that by the end you really know not just the song but also the arrangement. You could leave the theatre not only singing the song, but the backing vocals too. All the details are there. *chef's kiss*

Now I have to go and watch it again.
posted by YoungStencil at 9:08 AM on October 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

An interesting thing actually that I remember from when it came out which I'm surprised not to see reflected in the article was that there was sort of a buzz about it in Los Angeles (where I was a child at the time) - like even in this city that most movies are from, the people of LA were rooting for this movie. I feel like I heard that song everywhere in the weeks before it came out. I'm not sure if it was just the studio publicity blitz in overdrive or if there was also a component of people rooting for Tom Hanks, who's just beyond popular in LA, or what. My friend's mom played in the LA Phil and was a big 60s pop fan, and she was the adult who took us to see it after what felt like months of anticipation. It just felt like a Big Deal in LA to my preteen Valley-kid self, which is funny because apparently most people who didn't live there never heard about it. Honestly until I read this article I would have guessed it was one of the biggest movies that year, just because of how large it looms in my memory.
posted by potrzebie at 9:23 AM on October 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yeah that's wild. I was a high-schooler in small-town Oklahoma at the time and everybody saw this. I also would have assumed it was one of the year's biggest movies.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:34 AM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

The first time I ever ate psychedelic mushrooms went so well, I could not wait for another go. The second time I ate psychedelic mushrooms was moments before entering a movie theatre during the Edmonton launch of "That Thing You Do," I remember that panic feeling a person gets where you think the mushrooms won't kick in, then everything got fantastically dimensional and noses would project out of the screen etc. The movie was very funny at the time, I'd have to watch it again to find out if it was even remotely funny?
posted by elkevelvet at 9:38 AM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is a movie that makes me feel like, just for a moment, I’m maybe not Spartacus, but I’m maybe next to Spartacus, and that’s a great place to be right then. I love this movie because it makes me feel good and not ashamed of feeling good, in any way, shape or form.

To me, that is a triumph of Tom Hanks. People have complicated, messy lives, but at the end of the day, you know that, no matter what happens, someone out there thinks you’re going to be OK.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 10:17 AM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

There is no end to my love of this movie. It also contributed one of the longest standing movie quotes we use in our home: Whenever a light is left on in the house, Both I and Mrs. Mosley are prone to mutter, "Let it burn. LET IT BURN..."
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 10:25 AM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is my comfort movie. I just re-watched it in the last couple weeks. (As of right this second, it looks like it might still be streaming for free on YouTube Movies.)

I watched it early last year when COVID-19 stole Adam Schlesinger from us, too.

Thanks for some nostalgia-about-nostalgia. I really enjoyed reading this. Even the part about Ethan Embry pooing himself.
posted by armeowda at 10:27 AM on October 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

To promote the movie, the studio released the song "That Thing You Do" to radio stations nationwide. It peaked at #41, just barely failing to qualify as a Top 40 hit, but that's pretty good for a song deliberately written to sound thirty years out of date, and it still gets occasional airplay today. (Whatever digital music system my local supermarket employs plays it regularly, and I sing along every time, right there next to the Rice Krispies.)

And both Casey Kasem and Dick Clark agreed that if the song really had come out in the early '60s, it would have been absolutely huge. They would know.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:39 AM on October 3, 2021 [11 favorites]

This is so much fun! So many little details I didn't know.

I highly recommend watching the director's cut if you ever get a chance. There are several more scenes about the romantic lives of each character. Also, Mr. White (Tom Hanks' character) is gay.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:55 AM on October 3, 2021 [7 favorites]

I love this movie so much.

But the most memorable thing in this is Ethan Embry's duck/dysentery story.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:23 AM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Like everyone, I adore this movie. I also really appreciate how truly, truly catchy the song is. The whole movie fails if you get sick of the song (or never like it in the first place) and you just never do.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:41 AM on October 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I miss Adam Schlesinger. He was really a genius at that kind of thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:54 AM on October 3, 2021 [11 favorites]

I love this film. Like Armeowda it's a comfort film for me. I just rewatched it (I think it's on Netflix, or Prime). So much to love about this film. All of the actors characters are right on the money. It reminds me of being in bands playing all sorts of goofy shows and venues, though we never got the LA studio experience or a national (or in fact even local) tour. I really love that the only DJ who gave them the time of day is the fm jazz station DJ (Clint Howard, at his best). thanks for this post amarynth!
posted by evilDoug at 12:06 PM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

When the pandemic hit, the day lockdown was starting, I bought a bass and set about learning it.
Shortly after this, me and my son watched That Thing You Do. (me for the fourth or fifth time, he for the first), and of course loved it.
I thought: hey, the bassline is catchy and looks like fun. I should learn it!
Friends, I failed miserably. Bad.
So I kept learning, practicing, etc.
About a year later, I decided to give it another go.
I can play it now!
That feeling when you realize your skill has jumped enough for you to be able to do something you couldn't do previously, that's what this movie reminds me of.
posted by signal at 1:17 PM on October 3, 2021 [15 favorites]

Wait—we’re 22 comments in and no one has said anything about that band the Ohneeders??
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:55 PM on October 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Wait—we’re 22 comments in and no one has said anything about that band the Ohneeders??

Excuse me. That's the Oh-NED-ers.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:03 PM on October 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm more into captain geech & the shrimp shack shooters, myself
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:10 PM on October 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

And baby Charlize Theron!

Also, earlier this summer Steve Zahn posted this on Instagram -- most of the Wonders together on a road trip? What are they doing??
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:48 PM on October 3, 2021

And baby Charlize Theron!

We watched the extended cut for the first time just last month. I would normally be all for more Charlize Theron in a movie, but man did they beat that "She's dating the Dentist" dead horse with all those extra scenes.

On the other hand, the extended cut has Mr. White dating Howie Long, which is kinda awesome.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:59 PM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I thought the director’s cut would underscore how poorly Liv’s character was treated, but actually it makes the break up less impactful at the end somehow. The shorter version makes the lead singer seem more cruel by showing less.
posted by yeti at 6:00 PM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is a perfect movie, and I absolutely love it. Thanks for posting!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:17 PM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's free on youtube, just watched it, yep, holds up beautifully. What a lovable movie with solid characters and a just-plausible story, and fun, good music, sweetness, but not cheesy or manipulative.
posted by theora55 at 6:19 PM on October 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Every once in a while I think about the sheer boldness of writing a movie about a song that took over America, and then writing the song itself, and then playing it on the radio all the time for like six months, and somehow they exactly threaded the needle of "catchy enough that I can believe it was a major hit in the world of the movie" and "musically interesting enough to not get super tiresome after hearing it for the fifth time today"

Like, just… the raw ambition of being like "hey yeah we're just going to pretend we unearthed a lost early Beatles song" for the conceit, and then delivering on it perfectly from a musical standpoint
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:24 AM on October 4, 2021 [10 favorites]

Thanks for the post - I totally missed feeing this movie. I was inna high school rock band so gotta see it. DLing now.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:40 AM on October 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Like, just… the raw ambition of being like "hey yeah we're just going to pretend we unearthed a lost early Beatles song" for the conceit, and then delivering on it perfectly from a musical standpoint

I want to hear the other submissions they received, especially the one by They Might Be Giants(!). Obviously Adam Schlesinger's submission was 100% perfect, but I'm sure a bunch of the others are, say, 98% perfect. It's a shame they didn't go through with releasing that compilation.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:45 AM on October 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

I watched this around about when I was 11 or 12 I think- definitely that early teen/preteen.

The thing that stuck out to me as a lesson: don't play leap frog with parking metres.

I hadn't thought about this movie in years until a few months ago and our mum's group kiddos were turning a year old. Some mums had themed birthdays: two animal themed $child is a wild ONE for example, and an Alice in wonderland themed $child in onederland - especially with the font chosen, I screenshotted it and sent it to my sister and said "I know this probably makes me a terrible person but all I can see is $child in oh-need-er-land" - she replied she hadn't thought about this movie in ages! I'll have to send this to her.
(we had a vaguely dinosaur theme because I found some Dino plates and cups on special/clearance at the supermarket, but just invited people to a BBQ at a local park.)
posted by freethefeet at 8:20 AM on October 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oh and the song is now playing as an earworm.
posted by freethefeet at 8:22 AM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

There’s nothing more perfect to me than the Play-Tone Galaxy of Stars bus tour scene at the State Fair with Mr Downtown, The Chantrellines, and Diane Dane. Everything about it. I’d watch a whole movie about that tour with Boss Vic Koss.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:29 AM on October 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

They did an unofficial reunion/group rewatch on youtube while in quarantine and it was very charming, if a little weird. (They didn't have permission to like, re-air the movie so it was.. strange)
Absolutely one of my favorites. The soundtrack cd was pretty great, too. It had all the Galaxy of Stars songs on it as well as the Shrimp Shack Shooters. A+ stuff, and a genuine Playtone recording.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2021

I most desperately want to hear a post-viewing report from a humble nudibranch!
posted by hippybear at 7:39 PM on October 4, 2021

Last night, I watched the movie courtesy of YouTube, because of y'all. It was just as charming as I remember.

I recently watched From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, produced by Tom Hanks, which features a LOT of cast members from this movie. It gave me a lot of "Hey, it's [person]!" moments while watching. Bryan Cranston played Gus Grissom in That Thing you Do! in a very brief scene, and played Buzz Aldrin in a few episodes of From the Earth to the Moon, as well as Steve Zahn, Chris Isaak, Rita Wilson, Kevin Pollak, and Holmes Osborne, and possibly others I missed.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:43 AM on October 5, 2021

I am sorry for what Mike Viola went through, but it's fascinating to me that the dark and deep one can hear in "Jimmy's" performances came from a real place. All credit to Schaech for emoting and embodying those feelings on the screen, but the man who went back to his room to write that hit song "Alone in My Principles" is there in Viola's voice.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:54 AM on October 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Steve Zahn does this goofy fake commercial thing with Rick Gomez on Youtube and in one episode they are selling a guitar and mocking Steve Zahn's obvious lack of musical chops in TTYD while the movie plays in the background.

It slightly bothers me that I don't remember where I saw this the first time. I would have been by myself in Louisville at grad school while my wife was expecting our first son, living with her parents and their insurance in Portland, so I'm guessing I watched it later as a rental, but what a great show. I recently saw it for free on Youtube and made my 17 year old daughter watch it, and she dissected it like the jaded media consumer she is, saying, "Oh, that was nice." Kids these days have a structural understanding of media, a sophistication that scares me.

I savored this article, reading it in snippets over a couple of days. One thing I took from it was that

a) everyone commented on what a joy Tom Hanks made the production--Tyler: Hanks has this thing in him that casts this spell of joy upon everyone.

b) Hanks: I wanted to create a joyful sound and provide a joyful movie that carried more authenticity than simply nostalgia for the era. I wanted the audience to say, “That looks like fun.” I think we succeeded.

It occurred to me that Hanks made the set intentionally joyful so it would come out in the performances. There's probably a life lesson in there somewhere.

Oh and also:

Schaech: When Hanks said I didn’t have class, that was to Jimmy, but that hurt me. He was so good at telling me that. I remember almost saying, “Do you really have to say that to me, Tom?”

Hanks built up this close friendship with the cast and crew, and then used that relationship to wring wonderful performances out of the cast. That's some next level directing, like method acting.
posted by mecran01 at 6:00 AM on October 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

That Thing You Do! has been my stock answer to "what's your favorite movie" pretty much since it came out. When I find kindred spirits (and there are a lot of kindred spirits here!) it's a good predictor that we will be broadly compatible.

It's a real thrill that as time goes on the film seems to get more and more love.
posted by AgentRocket at 4:35 PM on October 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

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