Verdict: 2.5 / 5
The Sopranos creator David Chase writes and directs a coming of age Rock n Roll tribute, drawing from his personal life. Lead character Doulags could be seen as a sub-version of Chase in his early twenties.
It’s the 1960’s New Jersey, a slightly awkward high schooler – Douglas Damiano (John Magaro) sees The Rolling Stones performing on Hollywood Palace, hosted by Dean Martin. Inspired he tackles the drums and starts a garage band with 3 other friends called The Twylight Zones. Granted they aren’t great to start off with, but this was their escape, a place to create and express. Douglas boldly sates that the band is his real family. He lives in a house hold were his father Pat (James Gandolfini) suffers from mycosis fungoides, doesn’t support his musical ambitions or new found style and often belittles him. Furthermore, his mother (Molly Price) has hysterical outbursts of suicide threats. His little sister (Meg Guzulescu) acts as the film narrator.
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Douglas acts as backup vocals for front man Gene (Jack Huston), but Gene stupidly swallows a joint before a gig while trying to use a toilet roll as a bong. This forces Douglas to take the lead, giving the band a more “soulful sound”, as later pointed out by high-school crush Grace Dietz (Bella Heathcote). Douglas confesses his feelings to Grace and for the first time they start to communicate a friendship that would ultimately lead to romance.
But like most band related stories, Not Fade Away, depicts the conflicts that arise among members, the ego clashes and threats of quitting, even confessions of sexually sharing the same girl. Typical aspects that hint at them never making it and ironically fade away, but the script merely hints that direction, never acting on it, no major climaxes or real tension. Even when Gene starts beating Douglas after an attempted firework juggling act, nothing happens. The whole film is like that, something that should have more of an impact is brushed away. Other examples include Grace’s sister being admitted to a mental hospital, or Douglas finding out his father has cancer, or his friend Wells (Will Brill) crashing with a motorcycle. They just get a moment of recognition. Why write it into the plot if it doesn’t carry any weight to the progression of the story or character development?
To summarize this film in one word, I would choose: Drifter. That aside it is visually pleasing and the 60’s did produce great music, evident in the soundtrack. It ranges from James Brown’s There Was A Time, a number of The Twylight Zones hits, The Moody Blues Go Now, Bob Dylan’s She Belongs To Me, and of course, The Rolling Stones who did a cover of The Crickets’ Not Fade Away, from which the film title draws its name. Although a fictional band, The Twylight Zones music is available on iTunes. All the covers they did in the film and one original song titled The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre are available for purchase.