David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, has decided to give directing motion pictures a try. With his debut feature, Not Fade Away, Chase has provided plenty of nostalgia, without much substance.
The film is set in suburban New Jersey during the 1960′s, when the Beatles and Rolling Stones were brand new and taking the world by storm. A group of friends, led by a novice lead singer/drummer (John Magaro), decide to form a rock band and try to make it big. While it looks easy, they soon find out how much hard work and stress are involved in “making it big”. It doesn’t help when our leading man falls head over heels for the town stunner (Bella Heathcote).
Chase’s heart is in the right place, even when his plot isn’t. This movie feels like the mother of all vanity projects. That’s not to say it doesn’t strike a cord every now and then. When you buy an album, there are usually a few tracks that you skip over. Not Fade Away has that same problem. Issues about racism, political assassinations, Vietnam are all thrown clumsily into the plot, while we enjoy the fantastic soundtrack.
Magaro looks like the love child of Adrien Brody and Cate Blanchett (when she played Bob Dylan). He’s believable as a young music-lover who just wants to be cool and famous like the rock gods he idolizes. Heathcote is beautiful to look at and not much else. I’ve seen her a few times now and I’m still not sure if she is a good actress. She’s very easy on the eyes though, with her fawn-like beauty. James Gandolfini does the best he can do as the cliche Italian-New Jersey hard-ass father of Magaro. His dialogue is reduced to putting down gays and blacks, while complaining about his son’s long hair. Oh Marone!
Not Fade Away aspires to be a true slice of Americana, but never plants its flag proudly. Does it want to be an ode to early rock n’ roll? Or is it trying to tackle the important subject matters of this volatile era? The 60′s music and Chase’s love for it are the only two things that keep the film from completely dragging down. It’s called Not Fade Away, but it’ s already fading from my memory.
I give NOT FADE AWAY **1/2 out of ****.