James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater Chronicles

Review (Blu-ray): NOT FADE AWAY (2012)

Not Fade Away, Sopranos mastermind David Chase’s (seemingly) autobiographical, literally sepia-toned flashback to the time of rock and roll ascendance that came between the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK, has to be most dramatically inert and unsurprising coming of age drama I think I may have ever seen.

Seriously.

NOT FADE AWAY

Shot in murky, unappealing tones of mustard, avocado, and thousand-island salad dressing, Not Fade Away concerns its unsurprising, episodic self with the travails of young David, er, Douglas (John Magaro), a typical kid looking to score with the chicks by becoming a rock drummer. He fights with his Dad, a blue-collar version of Tony Soprano (played by James ‘Tony Soprano’ Gandolfini) who seems like he dropped in and started reading lines and brings nothing to the character of the hardcase, disapproving working-class father we haven’t seen or heard a million times before. Questions of manhood arise over fashion and hairstyles. Check.

In fact, in almost every scene the dialogue and character interaction tend toward the glaringly obvious, and what the characters say is often couched in the most unilluminating of cliches—”I guess it’s too much to ask to get a haircut, but if you don’t put on a tie, you and me are gonna tangle,” represents the most cutting and edgy of the father’s dialogue.

UNTITLED DAVID CHASE

As for Douglas, he’s an uninteresting, ordinary sap who can sing a little, has to fight for the lead singer slot in his hometown band full of not-ambitious enough townies content to play cover songs, gets (somewhat) close to a record deal, but in the end [SPOILER ALERT] follows his first-love, flighty art-chick, rich girl-girlfriend out to LA to go to film school instead of pursuing music, none of which the father or mother approve of. And so effing what, and that’s the end of the interminably dull movie that relies on light narration by a minor character to imbue the proceedings with any sort of overall point and meaning (and does a poor job of utilizing said narrator to this end). [END SPOILER]

Not Fade Away seems to want to have something to say about rock & roll, coming of age in the 60s, the threat of nuclear destruction hanging over everyone’s heads (perhaps most especially in the 60s), or being a college dropout struggling in a failed band full of hometown punters content to keep playing covers and scoring chicks, but the only clear message from the text (there’s not a whole lot of subtext to parse) is that Not Fade Away isn’t at all sure what it wants to say about any of those exceedingly common aspects of growing up in middle class, mid-20th century America.

Other than solid period detail and what must have been a budget-busting soundtrack of Stones, Beatles, and blues tunes, this film’s key elements of a not-terribly likable protagonist, low-stakes plot, and ugly visual palette means that it offers very little in its overlong two hours to recommend. Not Fade Away, despite being from an obviously talented and thoughtful filmmaker, must unfortunately stand as one of the most disappointing, unappealing misfires in recent movie memory.

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About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest novel Let the Glory Pass Away releases in January 2017.

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