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"Not Fade Away" is one of those movies that leaves you with a bad taste
after you watch the movie; it's like watching a movie by the resident
cool kid in town, straddling the prettiest girl in one hand and on the
other hand, going on about how he overcame his meager upbringing,
dysfunctional family, disloyal friends to become who he is. The story
might be genuine and the tribulations might be authentic but it's just
the way it is told that makes it so unlikeable.
The movie does not have an ending (just an absurd tacked on one), creates handfuls of subplots that it never bothers to resolve and indulges heavily in the writer/director's own world of self-references and pointless pettiness. After furiously producing subplots like it's a pilot of a TV show it just ends, giving that unresolved what-ever-happened-to feeling that as a moviegoer I hate. The young Italian-American protagonist who is probably the writer/director himself doesn't have a real story to tell or a point to make. The story just meanders on and on, the key tension points leading absolutely nowhere. Rather than create a compelling story, the movie demands some sort of adulation for what it presents and ultimately insults the viewer assuming the viewer should feel privileged to hear the story rather than earning its merits.
"Not Fade Away" is advertised as a movie about a band trying to make it big; however this movie is more of a bizarre bake of 60s set pieces. There is the vintage music equipment show - the Rickenbachers, the Gretchs, the vintage Fenders and others; the vintage car show and then the 60s records - primarily an obsession with the Rolling Stones that are displayed in their big, shiny and loud glory. While the audience who were teenagers in the 60s might appreciate the shiny items of desire, the rest will find these shiny objects do not fill up a movie or compensate for a story. It's like a glossy vintage advertising brochure - pretty girls, rebellious rock stars and shiny things but not a story to tell.
The other major problem in the movie is the absolute opacity of its sub-characters. The father, the mother, the girlfriend, the band mates, the girlfriend's sister, the families are completely and utterly opaque. They keep doing bizarre things without showing or being to infer why they are doing what they are doing. Perhaps it's some sort of a 60s thing, a band thing, an Italian-American thing or a 60s band thing but I wouldn't know. The movie doesn't bother to really explain or resolve anything and it just bubbles up here and there and then it's gone. The movie is just a sequence of these strung together and it just makes all the characters unlikeable and tiring.
I like rock and roll movies but in this movie rock music neither serves as a backdrop for a personal story nor tells a story about the rock and roll greatness. The 60s backdrop overpowers the movie and the story feels like it's about a bunch of teenagers so in love with themselves that they feel they are the privileged ones. One scene comes to mind; an aunt comments, "I hear rock and roll keeps you young" to which our protagonist churlishly replies, "rock and roll is an art form. Does Dostoyevsky keep you young?"
Reading some of the other reviews I can somewhat see positive
interpretations of this movie: life as a young person in the 60s was
not cohesive or predictable thus it is fitting for this film to be
"confused". The problem is that the more or less random snapshots of
the particular life we are witnessing illustrate the decade in ways we
already understand: I like the Beatles, I am sad and mad when MLK is
shot, I don't want to go to 'Nam.
Without the support of a plot or structured character development, one can anticipate the emptiness of it all. Too many threads are planted at once and they all die in strangled, choppy mess. Finally, individual scenes are executed in a way that is flowery, verbose, and predictable, which leaves each self-indulgent attempt at emotion-evoking very obvious.
Nostalgia is strong, and a few shivers-down-the-spine moments will no doubt come, which makes it easy to overrate this film. However those moments happen *despite* the film: cool history and good music are powerful things.
The Sopranos' creator David Chase's directorial debut, "Not Fade Away",
is, at its core, a sad movie, masked by the comedy and music that
barricade my empathy. The fictional story of a 1960s teenage drummer
(John Magaro) who creates a rock band with a few of his friends, "Not
Fade Away" is a very character driven film, focusing primarily on the
social life of the protagonist, specifically his relationship with his
girlfriend (Bella Heathcorte), his band mates, and his family. I won't
spoil the plot, but it is a coming-of-age tale, not as much about
learning and growing as it is about doing and living. James Gandolfini
is an on screen pleasure as the main character's father, while the rest
of the cast, mostly lesser known actors, gratifyingly embody the 1960s
rock and roll personality.
Gloriously filmed by Chase's cinematographer Eigil Bryld, the film succeeds in emitting a rock and roll cluttered vibe when the music is playing, contrasted by a dark, Godfatheresque undertone that is signature of David Chase during more dramatic scenes. While the art direction and costume design were spot on, in the end it was the music that was transporting me through time. Repeatedly watching, with the characters, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Buddy Holly perform on a small black and white TV, I was sent back into the age of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. The band's original songs were probably the highlight of the film. Under the supervision of Steve Van Zandt, the music department took advantage of the actors' talented musical backgrounds and were able to conjure up some extremely enjoyable tracks that very well could've been written during the era.
My main problem with the film is the fact that it is littered with unnecessary scenes, scenes that are probably meant to indicate character development, but ultimately convey little to nothing. It also fails to establish Heathcote, the supporting actress, as an interesting or particularly likable character. Not much is ever learned about her through the course of the film while notably less significant characters remain better developed and ultimately more interesting.
When walking into the theater at the New York Film Festival, I thought I was in for another "Almost Famous". What I got was a very different movie. "Not Fade Away" is a simple picture. With a basic plot structure and relatable characters, the film is practically spoon-fed to its audiences. It is the end of the film, the final scenes, that sum up not only the movie, but the era. You must think before you proclaim a lack of closure, consider the times and the lifestyle. Rock spawned from the blues and, in the sad actuality of this movie, can't ever separate from its source. Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration and in the end we often can't keep up. I recommend this vicarious joyride to all music, drama, and comedy movie lovers, as well as anyone who is looking for a party, a party that is shut down by reality. 8/10 stars.
David Chase's anticipated Not Fade Away not only jumbles itself into an indulgent story, constantly keeping the audience at an arm's length but it's overly stretched and uneven not utilizing the strong talents in the film like James Gandolfini, Jack Huston, and John Magaro. A natural comparison to Almost Famous (2000), the film doesn't hold a candle to Cameron Crowe's homage to music. Showcasing outstanding music of the 1960′s and 1970′s, Chase manages to capture moments of the young adolescent mind longing to be more. Lead Magaro delivers a character transformation of mind and body, a turn that elevates the film considerably. The great Jack Huston, an actor that will likely be one of the biggest things in Hollywood any minute now, delivers an aggressive supporting turn reminiscent of Channing Tatum's work in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006). Bella Heathcote shows tenderness and promise but undervalued and virtually unused. James Gandolfini, stands out with charisma and garners much of the big laughs. A great character actor like Gandolfini should be given room to move. The film ultimately fails because it never feels like Chase knows his film or where he wants it to go. The last twenty minutes feel unneeded, unearned, and thrown together for an "artistic" catalyst with no emotional or technical effect whatsoever. A large disappointment.
David Chase's earnest mix of rock 'n roll, young love and family drama is overlong and sloppy, aspiring to be a defining examination of the Sixties but rendered trite by trudging out references to every historic moment (in this, it's similar to "Lee Daniels' The Butler") and wallowing in misguided pronouncements about the Vietnam War, capitalism and rock's purity; the intent is to advance the father-son conflict between lead John Magaro and a wasted James Gandolfini. (In fact, Chase unintentionally portrays rock music as a negative force, divisive enough to destroy families.) Chase's strength as the creator of "The Sopranos" was in his carefully plotted backstory that forced the viewer to pay close attention upfront; here, he employs a similar approach, but without the expanse a mini-series affords the result is disjointed and incomplete: all of the stories he introduces are either left unsatisfactorily unresolved or spontaneously concluded. It doesn't help that his characters are inherently unlikable (Magaro is a good example), mere caricatures (co-stars Jack Huston and Will Brill) or blanks (love interest Bella Heathcote). The film's sole asset is Steven Van Zandt's musical curation, though he eschews the deeper tracks in favor of songs even the casual fan will recognize.
just finished up watching this growing up in the sixties, and rock and roll movie. for the earliest of the Baby Boomers, this is the movie for you, and the music will rock your soul. A teenage band, with inspirations maybe a little too optimistic. With a top notch cast, and great story telling, this was indeed entertaining and very realistic, since I was in a little band back then too. James Gandolfini is great as a pretty typical sixties Father, coping with everyday problems and a pretty wacky Wife. The teenagers are very realistic, and you could tell it was written pretty much biographical. It works for me. Highly recommended especially to us Boomers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. And it's sad because James Gandolfini does a great job, as he always does, with his performance. The problem is not the actors. The problem is the script and the direction. I liked the beginning of this film. It had real promise and direction. As the movie breaks into the hour and thirty minute mark it begins to wander aimlessly to the point of having no point, no direction and nothing to say. Until, at the very last moment, the meaning of the film is told to us by a break of the fourth wall. This practice, breaking the fourth wall-having one of the characters in the film talk directly to the audience-is tricky business. It's done far better in other films but not in this one. Especially not when one of the characters walks up to you and tells you what the movie is all about in a few words. That's not art. That's gutless. In regards to the length of this film; that's beating a dead horse. When you do something that blatant in film or story or any other kind of medium, the only thing you are doing is being lazy. It's telling me and the other members of the audience that you couldn't let the rest of the movie stand on its own. It's telling me you're a chicken. This movie would've been fine if it had wrapped up it's point by using metaphor. It was almost there. And then the end lines happened and if I didn't love my TV so much, my foot would've gone right through it. I write this as a warning to people who enjoy good movies; don't waste your time. The people who made this movie don't deserve it.
I enjoyed this. I went into the film having no idea what this film was about and thought it was really good. The music more than anything was done so well, credit to Steve Van Zandt. The story wasn't amazing or mind-blowing, but it was entertaining for sure. Set in the same time as That Thing You Do - early 60s - it follows a similar concept but completely different story. I was surprised by all of the music rights they obtained in the film as it is filled with big songs that couldn't have been easy to clear. In terms of the cast, Bella Heathcoate was definitely the standout for me. Her and her sister where my favorite to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a fan of Mr. Chase I ached for this work to take off but it never
does. The film fails primarily upon the page.It says little about the
character of those heady times that were the 1960's. This failure is no
easy task as rock music, suburban angst and the decade itself remain
fertile with enough substance to fill 100 movies let alone 1. Where
Chase fails first is in using the 60's as mere fashionable short hand.
A news flash or a film clip without worthy exposition turns tempest to
teapot. That the 60's and its artifacts are presented as mere fetish
objects devalues that currency. It purchases clothes, cars and music
rights without story ever rising above being a disposable trifle. The
art direction is terrific and while accurate, it never connects actors
to actions and exposition to plot. Too often anecdotes and pithy quotes
substitute for genuine emotion, motivation or character.
Luckily, the acting is fine. The best moments occur between James Gandolfini (the working class Dad) and John Magaro as his rock musician son.Their scenes crackled as no others did leaving the underwhelm pronounced. The female character's (clearly Mr. Chase's Achilles)are broadly drawn hysterical caricatures seemingly created mostly to advance the story of men. This was exemplified by Magaro professing to believing in a girlfriend whom we know nothing about. Equally inelegant were the fore-shadowed dramatic twists of staged fights, staged accidents and cancer as dramatic license. "Not Fade Away" was continuously so Hollywood soft that I found myself wishing that a Don Corleone type had read the script, met with David Chase and slapped his face yelling "Write like a man!"
Ultimately this film seems unable to decide if it is a John Sayles' time capsule told within simple salt of the earth fables or is instead a history lesson told in the sound bites and cliff notes of genuine deep thinkers.It never chooses and it ends as it began; an exercise in excess signifying little. What a waste of a green light and 20 million dollars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Everyone has heard about the '60's but only a few of us actually grew up during that decade. David Chase evidently did grow up during that time. Music was very important then. Before there were CDs there were vinyl records & every time The Beatles or The Stones or Dylan came out with a new record it was a major event. David Chase captures that time perfectly. He favors The Stones. Jagger and crew are still performing today and part of the secret of their longevity is the fact that they are blues based. Chase knows that & even tho he occasionally throws a bone to that other art form - film - he concentrates almost exclusively on the role of the blues in the formation of rock and roll. The cast of young unknowns are refreshing - especially the 2 leads & the soundtrack as has been noted is killer. I particularly enjoyed hearing Tracy Nelson's "Down So Low" which was used almost in it's entirety.
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