Being a classic rock fan I went to a screening of “Not Fade Away” with high expectations. The hype about the film suggested it might play out like it’s block buster predecessor “That thing you do”. Being a performer as well as a writer, I was looking forward to seeing the young band inspired by seeing “The Rolling Stones” struggle and come to some success. Although the film didn’t meet all my expectations it was a cruise down memory lane with an awesome soundtrack.
The film directed by David Chase (The Sopranos) is a “slice of life” in New Jersey during the sixties. At the risk of giving away too much I have to admit I grew up in Jersey, and I knew families just like the ones depicted on screen. At times the characters were a bit stereotyped yet at the same time fairly realistic. The story about a band “you probably never heard of” is narrated by Doug's (John Magaro)‘kid sister’ Evelyn played by young actress Meg Guzulescu.
One of the opening scenes features actors/celebrity look-a-likes of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in their historical meeting on a train. The actors chosen for this scene bore a striking resemblance to their real celebrity counterparts, especially the young man who played Keith. This chance meeting of the famous rock stars set off one of most famous rock bands in history, and inspires the main characters of the film.
While attending the school talent show Doug (John Magaro) catches on quickly that the best way to gain popularity and the eye of Grace (Bella Heathcote) is to form a band. After seeing “The Rolling Stones” on “The Dean Martin Show” Doug (John Magaro) and Eugene (Jack Huston) decide to follow their bluesy rock style. The young actors chosen to play the band-mates were inexperienced musicians who learned how to play just for the film. The characters try their best to emulate the style of their icons, down to the exact details of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts style.
They through the typical trials and shakeups of any band, with egos vying for ‘center stage”. It was disappointing that Chase didn’t show us more of the band performing, and trying to make it . Chase chose instead to focus on the sometimes mundane family dynamics of main characters Doug and Grace. A few scenes featuring Chase’s former Soprano’s leading man James Gandolfini seemed to drag on forever.. At times Gandolfini’s scenes seemed like ‘favoritism’ instead of necessity for the films storyline.
Chase does capture the essence of the era so well it’s like going back in time. “I loved the music”said Chase in a recent interview, expressing his desire to showcase it (the music) in a film. The music is definitely showcased as a main character of the film and the sound track is one of the best features of the movie. I’d like to give this film 3 and 3/4 stars but Examiner only allows me to post a 3 or a 4. This movie just misses a 4 star rating for me. If you love listening to the old blues and the retro music of the 60’s, you may want to check out this film, or get the soundtrack. “Not Fade Away” opens in theaters today.
***Coming up next Rolling Stones Tributeband musicians give their take on "Not Fade Away"****
Video and interviews!