Not Fade Away
Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.


Not Fade Away

The feature debut from the man behind The Sopranos is not very good.


“If we’re not ready for the studio now, we’ll never be,” announces a guitarist to his bandmates midway through Not Fade Away, the semi-autobiographical filmmaking debut of The Sopranos creator David Chase. “Man, that’s such a cliché,” comes the reply—a remark that doubles as an unwitting self-diagnosis for Chase’s entire endeavor. No doubt conceived as a combined chronicle of societal upheaval and an intimate, diaristic drama, the film too often plays like a rote riff on countercultural nostalgia.

The story of a wannabe rock star in 1960s New Jersey, Not Fade Away hits all of the predictable period beats, pointedly referencing the assassination of JFK, the advent of the British Invasion, and the ongoing struggles in support of civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Chase also leans heavily on well-worn coming-of-age and behind-the-music tropes: His scrawny, Dylan-mopped surrogate (John Magaro) joins a band to catch the eye of a popular local beauty (Bella Heathcote), in the process provoking the consternation of his conservative dad (James Gandolfini), and clashing creatively with his fellow performers.

Worse than the over-familiarity of the tale, though, is the surprising ineptitude in its telling. Apart from the participation of The Sopranos alums Gandolfini and Steve Van Zandt (as music supervisor), precious little of Chase’s small-screen mastery has survived the transition to the feature format. While Not Fade Away is evidently a labour of love, superfluous narration, several truncated subplots, and a general dearth of dramatic momentum also make it something of a labour to sit through.