Movie Review: “Not Fade Away” – A Music Burn Out

Written by Emily McWilliams January 27, 2013

Movies and rock music can be a wonderful union.  From comedies to bio-pics, rock and roll has been featured in many great film performances.  “Not Fade Away” is not one of those great movies.  The creator and producer of “The Sopranos”, David Chase, wrote and directed this film about a fictional band in the 1960’s trying to make it big.  You may be asking yourself, “Why would the creator of ‘The Sopranos’ write this movie”? Well to be fair, Chase wanted to be a professional drummer growing up so I guess this is his attempt to vicariously live out his dreams.  Still though, why would he live out his dreams through this movie? Nothing really happens; it’s the same generic band story we’ve seen countless times before that offers nothing new in the ways of filmmaking or music.

This movie is set in the 1960s.

“Not Fade Away” opens in a New Jersey suburb in the 1960s.  Right away, the filmmakers want to make sure you know this is the 1960s just in case it wasn’t clear based upon the retro clothes and haircuts.  In about a 20 minute time span everything from The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show to JFK’s assassination to The Civil Rights Movement to The Vietnam War are mentioned by various characters and news agencies within the film.  None of these issues really have relevance to the plot of the film, they’re just included to give the film some historical context (I guess).  Ok so it’s the 1960s, and Douglas (John Magro) is a high school student interested in starting a band with his friends.  When Douglas moves away to university, he becomes more invested in his band and the youth counterculture that defined the 1960s. Douglas’ decision to dress like a Bob Dylan wannabe and drop out of school to pursue his band infuriates his traditional father (James Gandolfini) who calls his son things like, “Fruit” and “Fag”, thinking that this will discourage him from being in the band.


“Music is an art form!”

Besides tension between Douglas and his dad, the other conflicts focus around the band and their struggle to become famous.  The band’s struggles follow the most generic plot points used in any film about a band.  The arrogant lead singer is replaced by Douglas, causing competition between bandmates.  When offered a record deal, the band realizes that they have to choose between making art and “selling-out”.  You can see where this is going, right? As for the band members themselves, with the exception of Douglas and the arrogant former lead singer, they are bland and not recognizable in any way.  They had no personalities or characterizations.  The original songs that they performed were the only redeeming quality that came out of their performances and even those weren’t that great.


Wait, there’s more to this than just the band?

Now, I’m not even covering all of the subplots that come into play in this movie (which is just over an hour and a half long by the way).  There’s a romance plot between Douglas and a girl he liked from high school, and that girl’s sister gets taken away by ambulance at some point, and also Douglas’ dad is sick (I think).  So there’s a lot going on, and just to make things even more confusing, the film is narrated from the point of view of Douglas’ sister even though she’s barely in the movie.  It’s just a really weird compilation of stories and none of them are given a proper conclusion.

Please fade from my memory

“Not Fade Away” has good production quality and isn’t too painful to sit through, but it is not a great film by any means.  It’s boring, predictable, and overall just seemed pointless.  Hopefully the young cast can move past this bad career choice and save their reputations before it’s too late.

My Rating: 4/10


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