Movie review: 'Not Fade Away' artfully tangles with generation gap of the '60s


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David Chase climbs into a time capsule, buckles us in with him, turns up the Rolling Stones, Rascals and Sex Pistols and slams the door shut in "Not Fade Away."

He and his cast and crew re-create the 1960s, with all its social and political upheaval, long-haired rebellion, music courtesy of the British Invasion, dreams of band stardom and crevasses opening between the generations.


'Not Fade Away'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

  • Starring:

    James Gandolfini, John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill, Bella Heathcote.

  • Rating:

    R for pervasive language, some drug use and sexual content.


Many people believe the 1960s started with the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and that's when this story of Douglas (John Magaro) really kicks into gear. He lives with his parents and younger sister in New Jersey, and it's a time when "The Twilight Zone" is on TV, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on the radio and teens danced and partied in their parents' basements.

Douglas, who plays the drums and has a good voice when given the chance to take the microphone, lands in a band that he eventually calls his "true family."

That doesn't sit well with his father (James Gandolfini), who is none too happy when his son grows his hair into a Bob Dylan cloud of corkscrews, starts wearing Cuban heel boots and talks about dropping out of college where the tuition is a pricey $2,000 a year. (Factor in inflation and that's nearly $15,000 today.)

"Not Fade Away" is about the coming of age of a man and a musical revolution thanks to bands such as the Stones and Beatles. Like life, it's about small moments and big decisions, about dreams that seem just within reach before they turn to dust, and a family in transition.

As with any band, there are arguments over names, girls (particularly one played by Bella Heathcote of "Dark Shadows"), who gets to sing lead, and if the members are ready or willing to pay their dues, as defined by a well-known producer.

As any fan of "The Sopranos" knows, Mr. Chase has always had an ear for dialogue and vivid characters. The dad promises his son, "You and me are gonna tangle, my friend" and, getting a load of the boy's coat and long hair, declares the college student looks like he just got off the boat at Ellis Island.

"Not Fade Away" allows Mr. Chase to reunite with Mr. Gandolfini (who will make you miss "The Sopranos" all over again) and Steven Van Zandt, whose Silvio Dante owned the Bada Bing and served as consigliere to Tony Soprano.

Mr. Van Zandt is an executive producer and music supervisor on "Not Fade Away," and he wrote and produced the soundtrack song "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" with vocals by Mr. Magaro and Jack Huston. They, along with Carnegie Mellon University grad Will Brill, were molded into a band for the movie and a very good one, at that.

With hints of what is to come near the end of the 1960s, "Not Fade Away" pretty much fades away. It doesn't so much end as stop, much like "The Sopranos" but with far fewer questions and more mood-setting music and memories.

Opens today at AMC-Loews at the Waterfront, Cinemark near Tarentum and Carmike 15 in Greensburg.

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.


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