Movie Review: Not Fade Away
Okay if you lived through the 1960s and/or you have a love for classic rock. That just about sums up David Chase’s debut film, Not Fade Away. The film, which takes its title from an early Rolling Stones song (which is, in fact, a cover of a Buddy Holly song), is the coming of age story of three high school kids with musical aspirations fueled by a Rolling Stones’ 1964 television appearance. The movie takes place in Jersey in the 1960s, but according to David Chase, was not a film about the sixties or an homage to the beloved decade. However, I am forced to thing that living through the sixties would have made the film more enjoyable. But if you’re like me – that is, born a bit too late, this movie is just a bunch of subplots thrown together that don’t actually ever get resolved. There is no emotional tug to the time period or even the characters for that matter. Despite this, Not Fade Away is watchable if only for the fact that you keep thinking that the big character transforming event is going to come along and rescue the entire thing, but alas it does not. Instead, you leave the theater scratching your head wondering why what you just watched doesn’t make any sense (and I am not just referring to the beyond unusual slapped on ending).
With the lead actors being no-name singers who happen to know how to act (allegedly), the best acting is gifted to the film from James Gandolfini and Molly Price’s respective roles as conservative parents and rock and roll haters Pat and Antoinette who struggle to handle their rebellious musician son Douglas (John Magaro) in a decade of turmoil. Even though I loved their performances, I still was not satisfied with Price and Gandolfini’s characters and the potential that eventually fizzled out. If I am assessing blame here, I would have to blame Chase. Obviously his character development in The Sopranos was legendary, but is lacking in the feature film format. Here there are just so many minutes to get it done. In the case of Not Fade Away, Chase has a generous 112 slow-moving minutes to get the job done and he ultimately falls short.
Despite all the issues with the story and characters, I did really enjoy the film’s music. The best song for me was Douglas’s performance of the Stones’ classic, “Time Is On My Side,” in which he claims his role as the band’s lead singer at a basement party – the kind that is thrown by kids with either cool parents or extremely naive parents. Magaro nails the bluesy vocals reminiscent of the Stones with a little help from Max Weinberg and the E. Street Band, who played the instrumental music for all of the movie’s songs. This performance makes for a memorable scene, and possibly one of the only highlights of Not Fade Away.
Although I would not want to see it again in its current form, I would love to see Not Fade Away reworked in some way. I would love to see the Chase reincarnate it into a more watchable, enjoyable format. Not only does the film have potential, but Chase does as well with his screenwriting. After all, he is a beyond successful seasoned television writer and producer, and being credited with creating one of the most successful TV shows in history entitles him to a do-over in my book. David Chase, here is your mulligan. Give it another shot. I promise I will continue to watch.
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