David Chase’s overly nostalgic and dull trip down memory lane has us yearning for the acid flashback version of Oliver Stone. Not Fade Away is so dominated by its pop music touchstone it crushes any attention to character and story.
Not Fade Away (2012) dir. David Chase
Starring: John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill, James Gandolfini
By Alan Bacchus
It’s 1964, the Rolling Stones have entered the pop culture consciousness, sending New Jersey high schoolers, Douglas (John Magaro), Eugene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill) into a frenzy and causing them to form their own band. The journey of this band as they age through the years and as girlfriends appear and fall off the bandwagon are peppered, as expected, with the well known political events of the period.
Chase knows he’s not treading new ground as filmmakers have been telling this story for decades. If George Lucas’ American Graffiti and ground-breaking TV series The Wonder Years exemplifies are the top bar and say, the now-defunct TV series American Dreams and Julie Tamor’s Across the Universe, the bottom rung, Not Fade Away sits in the middle.
Clearly no expense was spared in licensing the absolute best music of the era for this film. So much so we can’t help but tally these costs on the film’s bottom line. But for a film populated with so much great music the adventures of Douglas and his band mates are surprisingly joyless and dramatically inert.
Chase’s decision to cast mostly fresh faces as the leads fails and none of the youngster command the screen as vividly as say, the young Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard or Charles Martin Smith did in American Graffiti. Perhaps it’s an unfair compare, but this seems to be where Chase is aiming and can’t help but compare. And the most recognizable face, James Gandolfini, has nothing substantial to work with, as the doubting father character cut from the same cloth as the grumpy conservative father character in Wonder Years.
The shear number of pop cultural references extends beyond the songs, television shows such as the Twilight Zone and Orson Welles' film Touch of Evil has the effect of having a conversation with an annoying name dropper.
Not Fade Away is available on Blu-Ray from Paramount Home Entertainment in Canada