‘Not Fade Away’ pleasant but lacks coherence
“Not Fade Away,” directed by David Chase and starring John Magaro, James Gandolfini and others, tells the story of one of the many bands formed by teenagers that don’t make it. The performances and music are a pleasure, though the film feels more a bit incoherent, writes Seattle Ti
Seattle Times movie critic
“Not Fade Away,” with John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill, Bella Heathcote, Brad Garrett, Christopher McDonald and James Gandolfini. Written and directed by David Chase. 112 minutes. Rated R for pervasive language, some drug use and sexual content. Several theaters.
What happens to all those bands, formed by teenagers with big hair and big dreams, that aren’t quite good enough? “Not Fade Away,” the feature-film debut of “The Sopranos” creator David Chase, tells the (fictional) story of one of those bands, formed by a group of high-school boys in early-’60s New Jersey and initially called The Twylight Zones. A few years pass and life changes, but they’re still practicing in the same wood-paneled basement, waiting for the break that might never come.
Douglas (John Magaro), the band’s moody drummer, is this story’s focus. A skinny, jittery kid with a mop of dark curls (it gets bigger as the movie — and the decade — progresses), he’s got an intense stage presence and an oddly fuzzy, slightly metallic voice that eventually finds its way to a microphone. He’s perpetually at war with his old-school father (James Gandolfini) and overwrought mother (Molly Price), who want him to focus on college and practicalities. “The band is my true family,” he tells them — but in time, that “true family” gets just as fractured.
“Not Fade Away” often feels more like a collection of effective moments than a coherent whole; the story sprawls quickly over several years and you feel as if some characters and conflicts get short shrift. (A whole separate movie could be made about sad-eyed Joy, played by Dominique McElligott, for whom the ’60s weren’t kind.) But the performances and music are a pleasure, and Chase’s affection for the period is palpable. At the end, the camera lazily swirls around Doug, a Jersey kid who’s found himself in an unexpected place. It feels just right to leave him there, with the rest of his story not yet written.
Moira Macdonald: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2725.