What: The kiss between Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) and Faye Dolan (Liv Tyler) at the conclusion of writer-director Tom Hanks’ 1996 film That Thing You Do!:
Why: Hanks’ directorial debut scored on every possible level. He taught an impressionable quartet how to sing and play their instruments as the Wonders, making a band film that felt like it was about a real band. He scripted a cascade of scenes that were all, as his manager character Mr. White would say, “something snappy.” He crafted a 1964 period piece while reimagining the period itself, co-composing a completely fictional musical backdrop that seemed impossibly realistic (the title song is played seven times, yet is so catchy you’d hear it seven more). But his greatest triumph is a sub rosa love story, woven deftly in single lines sprinkled in scenes about something else. Guy is the jazz-worshipping drummer of the Wonders, whose self-absorbed lead singer Jimmy Mattingly (Jonathan Schaech) is dating the lovely Faye. After the Wonders perform on The Hollywood Television Showcase, Faye dumps the heartless Jimmy with the soul-melting line “I have wasted thousands and thousands of kisses on you.” As the one-hit Wonders collapse, Guy asks Faye when was the last time she was decently kissed. After her gauntlet-dropping reply (“Dave Gamelgard, New Year’s Eve, ’61”), Guy mans up and goes for broke. Faye’s nuanced physical reaction, all furrowed brows and uncertain lips, holds the scene together to its perfect conclusion. Her next answer to Guy’s question will be “Ask me again.”
Impact: That Thing You Do! was a modest hit. Afterward, Hanks kept his movie director’s chair in storage; Scott became a werewolf, then a perennial supporting actor; Tyler became a go-to romantic partner for any ranger, man-monster, or asteroid-bound oil driller in need. The movie itself seems to be inching toward classic status. It’s hard to find anyone who can say anything negative about such a sweet and clever story; it’s almost like kicking a puppy. In fact, I can only think of one truly regrettable thing about this film, and that’s that it inspired this.
Personal Connection: I identify with Guy Patterson. In my school days, I was a jazz drummer stuck in a rock-band world. I used to sit at home and play routines like Patterson’s homebrewed “I Am Spartacus.” And I imagined that if I ever got to a place like the Hollywood Television Showcase, my bandmates would turn to me, as the Wonders’ guitarist Lenny does, and ask me something along the lines of “Hey, Mike, how did we get here?” And I would say words to the effect of “I led you here, sir, for I am Spartacus.” Or at least I imagine I imagined that.
Other Contenders: Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster get salty in From Here to Eternity; Katharine Hepburn gets a “Golly Moses!” liplock from Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story; Kirsten Durst and Tobey Maguire go behind the mask in Spider-Man; Tom Selleck knows what Kevin Kline needs in In & Out; Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford’s hands get dirty in The Empire Strikes Back; Al Pacino and John Cazale share a heartbreaker in The Godfather Part II.