David Chase is known most for his HBO series ‘The Sopranos’. He has written
and directed a new movie ‘Not Fade Away’. While ‘The Sopranos’ deals with a dysfunctional family growing up in New Jersey, the movie ‘Not Fade Away’ deals with a dysfunctional family growing up in New Jersey, but without any guns.
Douglas (John Magaro) plays drums with a group of friends. They want to play cover versions of songs and make it big in the mid 1960s. The main guitarist and singer is Gene (Jack Huston). Douglas has issues with his family, mostly his father (James Gandolfini, who is a holdover from ‘The Sopranos’). His younger sister Evelyn (Meg Guzulescu) wants him to succeed, but does not know what to do to support him, so she decides to provide voice-over narration at various times.
Douglas works part-time at a country club digging ditches. One of the members at the club is a very wealthy family named Dietz. The father is played by Shooter McGavin, I mean Christopher McDonald. He has two daughters, one named Grace (Bella Heathcote) and Joy. Bella becomes the on-again / off-again girlfriend of Douglas. Joy becomes a 60s Love Child nutcase, who runs around with a necklace made of empty plastic lemon shaped squeeze bottles. It is as weird as it sounds.
Douglas takes over as the lead singer and begins to write songs. The band goes between various gigs and time passes by. They think they are the brink of a record contract, and then the next minute they are not. They smoke a ton of cigarettes and drink a lot of bottled beer. They do various drugs during the 60s and are vocal to oppose the war in Viet Nam. Grace becomes a closer part of his life, and then they seem to break up.
His father grumbles and complains about Douglas and his life choices. But Douglas decides to resemble a young Bob Dylan as his life’s goal. The band records a demo in a studio, and eventually a record company executive (Brad Garrett) gives them advise for about 5 minutes.
Things happen and the band dissolves, sort of. Douglas and Grace move out to California. They go to a party and Douglas thinks he sees Charlie Watts (from the Rolling Stones). Douglas leaves the party and cannot find Grace. So he meanders down Sunset Blvd. early in the morning attempting to hitch a ride. Then, for no apparent reason, his sister Evelyn shows up for more narration and dances in the middle of the street.
Yes, it does sound like there is not much to the story. That is because it is true, there is very little to the story. In a case like that, the movie should concentrate on building strong characters and give them strong interactions and motivations. There is also none of that in this movie. The characters are paper thin and there is no development or character arc in the story. The people are reflecting all the stereotypes of the 60s culture, with an emphasis on sex and drugs and rock and roll.
This is a story and character that might mean a lot to David Chase. But it probably will not interest a wide group of movie-goers. The story skips and bounces and rambles about. There is no real overall focus. The title of the movie is ‘Not Fade Away’. But the real question is, can it ‘Fade Away’ when it is never there to begin with?
Want to see ‘Not Fade Away’? As Tony Soprano might say ‘Fugget about it’.