The coming of age drama set in 1960s suburbia comes off more as a love letter to David Chase’s youth then a rousing, interesting take on the hopes and dreams of so many garage bands that never made it.
During the British invasion of 1960s music, Doug (John Magaro) and his friends decide to put a band together, playing mostly in basements during parties. They begin to have a small following when Doug takes over vocals, at the behest of his love interest, Grace (Bella Heathcote). Unfortunately, his dreams of becoming New Jersey’s answer to The Rolling Stones leads him to believe quitting college is the right thing to do, much to the chagrin of his brutish father played brilliantly by Tony Soprano—I mean, James Gandolfini. The moments Gandolfini is berating Magaro were most of my favorites, those moments from inside the unhappy American family of 1960s suburbia.
Unfortunately, Not Fade Away had so much potential to be brilliant, but it just fell flat. Every time the story started to get the ball rolling they would skip ahead a few months, but in a way that made no sense. For most of the movie I felt exhausted with my constant questions, “He was just in high school, now he’s in college? Oh nope, just kidding, he’s already dropped out…wait, what’s happening now? Now he’s a semi famous hometown garage-band-boy with his own groupie? Who left the band this time? Now he is moving to LA? Wait, what’s going on with the Dad?” So many questions throughout the movie and so many left unanswered. I wanted to like it, I tried really hard to enjoy it, but Not Fade Away came across as David Chase’s personal scrap book of memories, and he never quite let us all the way in.
I was very excited to see Jack Huston in something other than his often touching while at the same time terrifying Richard Harrow on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, but like many of the great actors in Not Fade Away he was underused.
Instead of spending money on Not Fade Away, buy the soundtrack (the music was the best part), and rent Almost Famous to relive Cameron Crowe’s love letter to his youth, now that is an example of how you let your audience enjoy the ride with you.
In theatres January 4th