Not Fade Away re-creates a strangely innocent era
Starring John Magaro, Jack Huston, and Bella Heathcote. Rating not available.
They say that if you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there. But “they” are often talking about the ’70s when that cliché comes up.
Anyway, the era of Sputnik and Eisenhower conformity actually lasted until the Beatles showed up on The Ed Sullivan Show those fateful Sunday nights in early 1964, as seen in this feature-film debut for writer-director David Chase, best known for creating The Sopranos.
The key awakening in Not Fade Away comes from a Sullivan moment later that year. While the Rolling Stones slink through their gloriously lazy version of “Time Is on My Side”, aspiring drummer, occasional singer, and full-time Brillo-head Douglas (John Magaro) notices that all the pretty girls gathered at someone’s New Jersey tract house are transfixed by these decidedly uncute Brits. His nascent band adds blues to its repertoire and he finally captures the attention of Grace (Bella Heathcote), the senior-class beauty.
Local success also triggers rivalries with the young combo’s laid-back bassist (Will Brill) and putative vocalist and lead guitarist (Jack Huston), who is actually more good-looking than good. And, of course, it doesn’t sit well with Doug’s gruffly working-class dad (James Gandolfini) and depressive mom (Molly Price), who want him in college—if only to avoid being drafted to Vietnam.
Chase’s two-hour re-creation of that strangely innocent time, with its narrow ties and Marlboro-tainted idealism, mirrors parts of Tom Hanks’s That Thing You Do!. But Fade has a darker, more drifting tone, suggesting the weirder places to which that decade would eventually go. The director makes all the smartest musical choices, too, picking the Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina” instead of, let’s say, “Time of the Season” by the Zombies. In some ways, this movie may be better than being there the first time.