Title: NOT FADE AWAY
Director: David Chase
Screenwriter: David Chase
Cast: John Magaro, Will Brill, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, James Gandolfini, Molly Price
Screened at: Paramount. NYC. 11/16/12
Opens: December 21, 2012
It’s great to be young, isn’t it? You’re at your physical peak, your sexual acme, your emotional highs. But the same energy that informs most of us when we’re eighteen to twenty-two, basically college age, can cause terrible falls as well, putting us into the pit of depression. That’s what make coming-of-age tales so poignant, and if a coming-of-age tale is filled with the music that the young people like, that makes the movies all the more appealing. Such is the case with David Chase’s “Not Fade Away,” directed by the guy who gave us the TV episodes of “The Sopranos” and who, in this case, knows what he writes. He was himself an aspiring rock musician in the sixties, playing drums and bass on the East Coast while enjoying movies like “The Public Enemy” with James Cagney. As for his inside knowledge of Italian-American families, suffice it to say that his real name is David DeCesare. We suspect that much of the content of “Not Fade Away” is informed by Chase’s own memories.
“Not Fade Away,” which gets its title from a Buddy Holley song later sent to greater heights by the Rolling Stones, is anchored by a soulful performance from John Magaro as Douglas, a drummer and singer in a rock band that rehearses, of course, in a garage. When he comes back home to Pat (James Gandolfini) his dad, and to his mom (Molly Price), the former immediately challenges him for having grown his hair long while his mother wonders why his son would become a hippie when his dad works his butt off in his own company. Among the subject explored in the movie is the generation gap, which seems to have opened up widest during the days of the Vietnam War. If dad thinks his son is going to hell in the culture wars, mom is sure that the boy’s plan to travel to L.A. with his girlfriend Grace (Bella Heathcote), sleeping in the same room, will mean that the grandchildren will be born with genetic defects.
The principal trio, consisting of Douglas and his rock-band pals Gene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill) dominate the movie, along with girlfriend Grace. A good deal of the running time is spent listening to the band rehearse with one scene taking place at an important audition in which the record company exec tells the boys to learn 25 Christmas songs, play them at local bars at the risk of being pelted, and then call him after six months since that’s the kind of basic training that the Beatles had undergone before rising to fame.
The movie is episodic rather than following a defined trajectory as you might expect from a director who honed his skills in the TV industry. Interspersed with the singing of the young men are clips from the greats of the era such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The most poignant scene is one in which dad and son get together in an Italian restaurant, the former really talking for the first time with the boy as an equal rather than a punching bag. Gandolfini, them, comes off with both the best comic moments and the most tender in a movie that’s no more and no less than a coming-of-age drama that will remind moviegoers of Cameron Crowe’s year 2000 “Almost Famous,” about a high school boy who gets to write about a rock band for Rolling Stone magazine.
Rated R. 112 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B