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Monday, November 5, 2012

NOT FADE AWAY

By D.E.Levine

A NYFF50 Selection

David Chase, known for his hit TV show The Sopranos, has written and directed a debut film that has a wonderful choice of his favorite music from the 1960s and also tells the story of the formative influence of music on his generation.

The choice of the title comes from a song made popular by Buddy Holly and The Rolling Stones.  While the story centers on a group of friends in a comfortable New Jersey suburb to take their band out of their garages and into the mainstream music business, the main theme is really about youth coming of age in the 60s.

The film is also a commentary on the changing of society, where youth seeking creative outlets are questioning the stability and traditional existence lived by their parents.

The era of the 60s is so rich that a combination of pop culture, the quest for artistic freedom and politics all helped to shape society and the youth coming of age in that time.  And, all of those are  shown as influences in the film.

Douglas (John Magaro) plays drums in a Garden State band.  The experience is taken directly from Chase's time as a drummer in a similar band.  Douglas and friends Gene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill) play covers of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bo Didley and a host of others at dances and parties.

Smitten with school beauty Grace (Bella Heathcote), Douglas is pretty much ignored by her until he steps in to do vocals when Gene has to skip a gig.  Proving himself to be a superior vocalist, Douglas also attracts Grace's attention and they start a romantic relationship.

Also an examination of the relationship between Douglas and his Italian-American family, the film shows their reaction to his curly hairdo, his pea coat and his adoption of Cuban heels as both poignant and hilarious.

When Douglas' father Pat (James Gandofini) is diagnosed with cancer, we see a sadness and wistfulness as Pat regrets his own sacrificed dreams while watching his son reach for his.  Perhaps the most moving scene is where Pat examines his regrets and lost opportunities while watching South Pacific on TV with the song Bali Ha'i playing.  With tears rolling down his cheeks, it may be this moment that defines his decision to let Douglas break from tradition and follow his dream.

Grace's unstable sister, in a conservative family, helps push and keep Grace and Douglas together and the overall story is told by Douglas' kid sister (Meg Guzulescu), who observes it all from the sidelines.

Although none of the three central characters were musicians when they auditioned, they trained together, learned to play their instruments and actually became the band that plays quite well in the movie.

Steven Van Zandt executive produced the film and acted as music curator.  He also wrote an original song called  The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" which Douglas and his band mates use as their first original songwriting attempt.

Not Fade Away is a very appealing film.  You don't have to be a baby boomer to enjoy the soundtrack and the story and it should provide a foundation for future films to come by David Chase.