Monday, January 7, 2013
Movie review: Rock ‘n’ rollers turn it up in Not Fade Away
Most plotlines are predictable, but the music is great.
Songs have the ability to transport us back to specific moments in time while lyrics often reflect societal sentiments. David Chase (creator and executive producer of The Sopranos) pays homage to his love of music and takes viewers on a trip down memory lane in the new, semi-autobiographical film Not Fade Away, which takes place in 1960s New Jersey.
He takes the universal theme that growing up means growing apart from your family and then infuses that theme with rock 'n' roll. Not Fade Away focuses on Douglas (John Magaro), a headstrong teen who, like so many other baby boomers at the time, identifies with his generation and finds his parents’ way of thinking outdated. Douglas is inspired by the lyrics and sounds of the Beatles and Rolling Stones and becomes the drummer and backup singer in a band. His experience in the band and their quest for success serve as the backdrop of the story.
Although the film spans five years in which Douglas falls in love, struggles with his family, and moves from drummer to lead singer in the band, we see only highlights of these major events. The film is uneven and choppy, but is held together by montages of news and television clips, which help denote the passage of time, as well as historical events. Many of the ensemble cast members are more caricatures than characters and most of the plotlines are predictable.
The only relationship that resonates with truth is the father-son dynamic between Douglas and his blue-collar dad, played by James Gandolfini. The two clash in their views on everything from attending college to involvement in the military. Some off the most poignant moments in the film occur when Douglas begins to understand the sacrifices his father has made for the love of his family.
Chase’s love of music and the influence it had on him is evident. Dick Clark said that music is the soundtrack to our lives. Chase and executive producer Steve Van Zandt (The Sopranos, E Street Band) feature fantastic songs throughout the entire film. Viewers may be left with the sense that they are looking through a photo album without much of a backstory, but they are fortunate enough to get a slice of rock 'n' roll history along the way.