Directed by: David Chase
Written by: David Chase
Starring: John Magaro, Will Brill and Jack Huston
The Sopranos creator David Chase sets his feature film debut Not Fade Away against one of the nation’s most significant decades in politics and music. It’s also a decade that is overly represented in contemporary American cinema with its undying appeal to younger generations who feel like they’ve missed out, whilst striking chords with the older generation that grew up in the thick of it. With a more immediate sense of the present than nostalgia, Chase brings his knack for writing witty dialogue to a passion for music in 1960’s New Jersey. But without enough surprising concepts, themes, or original, fresh perspectives on the times, Chase’s coming-of-age story fails to escape the familiarity of the 60’s as we’ve seen countless times on the big screen.
Despite this, Chase’s focus on family conflict, personal ambition, and the harsh realities of failing to make it big in music are indeed rendered compelling through superb performances (particularly by James Gandolfini’s supporting role as a disapproving father) and characters that are both engaging and, at the right times, humorous. While Chase’s script may not necessarily be portrayed with the utmost conviction by lead John Magaro, whose antiwar sentiment and selfishness consistently lacks greater depth or complexity, there is an empathy that can be drawn from the uncertainty Chase injects into the dreams and hopes of the young drummer, singer-songwriter.
A little self-indulgent, and definitely not a step above the masterful Sopranos, Not Fade Away nevertheless offers a passionate reflection on the throes of young ambition, and a brilliant soundtrack put together with the expert help of music supervisor and executive producer, Steven Van Zandt.