Movie review: Not Fade Away

October 22, 2012 – Chances are you haven’t heard of the movie “Not Fade Away”, David Chase’s rock and roll story focused on suburban kids in northern New Jersey forming a band and trying to make it big during the 1960s. The film made its Philadelphia debut as a centerpiece gala selection at the 21st annual Philadelphia Film Festival this weekend, so the buzz has just begun.

Chase, the same writer/director who created “The Sopranos”, pays homage to the music of the 1960s, a time that he says shaped his thinking and artistic mission.

“It’s not an autobiography,” Chase says. “But it’s suggested by the way I felt at the time, and my loves and hates at the time, but not incidents per se. I started writing a primitive version of this screenplay 25 or 30 years ago, but I only got eight or nine pages into it. So I had the idea for a long time, but not many pages. So I really only started writing this movie after The Sopranos.”

“Not Fade Away” is also a tender coming of age drama that is as realistic as it is familiar. It stars a list of newer Hollywood actors led by John Magaro in the role of Douglas, the high school nerd who dreams of making it big in the music business. His father, played by veteran actor and Soprano’s lead, James Gandolfini, and his friend and band mate, played by Jack Huston, currently starring in “Boardwalk Empire” as Richard Harrow, the masked man, are the only two actors easily recognized. But Chase explains that casting relatively unknowns was done purposely due to the musical demands of some of the roles.

The story takes place over five years, 1963 to 1968, and opens just as John F. Kennedy is assassinated. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before – older teens arguing with their parents over Vietnam and other social issues that were plentiful during the decade, and parents urging their sons to cut their hair and stay in college to avoid the draft, but it’s true to the times.

The script also shows signs true imagination, with a unique opening scene depicting a young Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on London’s tube discussing forming a band of their own, and the closing scene, which I won’t ruin, leaving you to wonder.

What might be slightly different about this script is the band’s passion for rock and roll, namely the British invasion of the Beatles and the Stones, and the blues. Most other young folk in those northern Jersey neighborhoods were obsessed with the other Jersey Boys – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to be exact – a total different sound altogether.

It’s hard not compare “Not Fade Away” to other movies that pay homage to the music industry, such as “Almost Famous”, which was much more personal and a better movie overall. Still, if you’re a fan of realistic period pieces, and music of the 1960s – the soundtrack is the brainchild of Steven Van Zandt, also of Sopranos fame – you will most likely enjoy it. It’s far from a great movie, but equally distant from a terrible film, easily making it an enjoyable 95 minutes.

“Not Fade Away” opens in theaters nationwide in December.

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