Intrigued by the fact that the guy behind the Sopranos, David Chase, has made his first film and has brought James Gandolfini along for the ride? Me too. Unfortunately that sense of intrigue was not satisfied. Whereas The Sopranos took the mafia genre and turned it on its head Not Fade Away takes the coming-of-age tale and heaps on one cliché after another until you are overwhelmed by them. Then it adds on an inexplicable does of pompousness to round out the unappetizing dish. Bottom line is the idea is much better than the execution.
Am I crazy to think that you should have a little more of a career than one television show (albeit a very successful and well-crafted one) before you start referencing your own work. I think even Quentin Tarantino waited a while before doing that. More annoying is the fact that after all the ego he really has nothing to say. Chase has shot a film that really does not have a story. Yes, there is a young Italian-American teenager who wants to become a rock star despite his dysfunctional family and generally messed up life. Deciding to follow his heart Douglas (John Magaro – The Brave One, The Box) forms a band with some of his friends and draws upon his love for his girlfriend (Bella Heathcote – In Time, Dark Shadows) for inspiration. Instead of taking that fairly interesting ball and running with it the film just kinda stands in place and expects us to be impressed nonetheless.
Somehow David Chase has managed to take a character that we should like (a youngster trying against all odds to become a rock and roll musician) and make him unlikeable. The deeper I got into the film the more the lead bugged me. He seemed too enamoured with himself and thinking everything he did was brilliant for my liking. I found myself not wanting him to succeed rather I wanted life to hand him a huge stinking plate of failure to take a little bit of shine off.
Structurally the film is a mess. All over the place with subplots started and never really concluded to any sort of satisfaction. Story threads are started and then just discarded. Then there is the ending….or the haphazardly tacked on one that is really the topper. Frustration with a capital F.
What it does do well is recreate this particular moment in time. Against the backdrop of the 60s in the United States with the Vietnam War being fought somewhere in a far off land, Not Fade Away gives us stunningly beautiful vintage guitars like Fenders and Rickenbackers, some cool clothes, classic cars, and plenty of the Rolling Stones. If you grew up in the 1960s there will definitely be a sense of nostalgia brought about by the set and costumes of the film. Though that it not nearly enough to call this a good film.
If David Chase was trying to make his own version of Almost Famous then he should go back to the drawing board.
-The Basement Tapes
-Building the Band