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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Not Fade Away
Directed by David Chase
Paramount 10/12 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R – pervasive language, some drug use, sexual content

"Rock music is a necessary element of contemporary society. It is functional. It is healthy and valid artistically. It is also educational (how to ask a girl for a date, what love is like). It has all the answers to what your mother and father won't tell you. It is also a big business," the notorious Frank Zappa wisely summed up. In this rollicking tribute to the music and youth culture of the 1960s, first-time film director David Chase has fashioned a rich and robust drama about a New Jersey band and the changes they go through as they dream of their hoped for glory days as superstars. We can depend on the creator of the groundbreaking television series The Sopranos to deliver characters who are not one dimensional and a storyline that is true as the chips on tea cups and the stains on the bathroom floor.

"For those about to rock, we salute you!"
— song by ACDC

Douglas (John Magaro) lives in suburbia with his Italian-American family: a father (James Gandolfini) who can't stand the counterculture and all it represents; a passive mother (Molly Price); and a little sister (Meg Guzulescu) who serves as the narrator of Not Fade Away. He is a drummer but has no band as a shelter from the storm of his feelings for Grace (Bella Heathcote), the girl of his dreams, whom he watches at school having a great time with her jock boyfriend.

Then his life moves into turnaround when Gene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill) ask him to join their Garden State band. They excel in playing covers of Bo Diddley, the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks. When the lead singer loses his voice, Douglas gets his chance to prove that he is a better singer. The band is impressed and so is Grace who calls his performance soulful. She has her own problems with a sister (Dominique McElligott) who is put in a mental institution by parents who cannot tolerate her liberal political views and her rebellious actions directed against them. Douglas is ridiculed by his father when he lets his hair grow long but he doesn’t care: the band is ready for an audition. Things are looking good and Los Angeles, California, could be his next stop.

Baby Boomers will get a kick out of the clips from television shows , commercials, and movies, and other pop culture references in this story of one band's journey in the 1960s. Chase draws out a strong performance from Magaro who vividly conveys the personal and creative blooming of Douglas as he rides the rock 'n' roll train over the hills and around the bend. Best of all is the outstanding music selected by Steve Van Zant, a founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and an original principle cast member on The Sopranos. He serves as Executive Producer and Music Supervisor ofNot Fade Away.

 

Screened at The 50th New York Film Festival: September/October 2012.


Special features on the DVD include closed caption.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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