It takes a special kind of movie to not introduce main characters’ names clearly and quickly and have the audience not notice. The last time I personally can think of a movie to do this successfully was Drive, when I didn’t realize Ryan Gosling’s character didn’t have a name until the end credits.
Not Fade Away is not that special kind of movie. I had no idea what any of the characters’ names (not counting James Gandolfini as “Dad”) were, until well into it. I waited for the main character’s name for the first twenty minutes, and then thirty minutes, and then an hour, until finally, over an hour into the movie, a random family member calls the main character (John Magaro) Douglas. So, I guess that’s his name. This might seem like a minor problem for a movie to have, but it can be pretty telling of more serious problems, such as pointlessness, lack of direction, and lack of story, all of which Not Fade Away suffers from.
Chris and I saw this at a free preview screening and thank God for that. It played out like a filmed rough draft of a film student’s script: meandering, seemingly endless, with too many characters that go nowhere. The main character, with his pretentiousness (on his band: “It’s not a career, it’s an artform,”) and disrespect for his family, is wholly unlikeable. Add to that the fact that they were clearly going for a young Bob Dylan/Fabrizio Moretti look and instead just ended up with Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter. And while I’m thinking about hair: I normally give little to no thought about wigs, but the pathetic rags they called wigs in Not Fade Away were so laughable that they were distracting, particularly the one they planted on Jack Huston.
Coming from The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, David Chase knows good and well what James Gandolfini and Jack Huston are capable of, yet he still did them the disservice of putting them in his amateur film debut. You’ll be much better off just watching That Thing You Do!.
Hey, at least we got to see this for free. Because it was not good. Because I wouldn’t pay for it. This was David Chase’s first movie in theaters, and it really shows. Of course we know him for The Sopranos, he has an excellent resume, but for this film really nothing worked. Like most films there needs to be a point and this one falls completely short. There are many hints of maybe something exciting happening in the plot but everything is easily resolved and if something was inevitable it never happened, just presumably after the movie ends.
The big star of the film is James Gandolfini. He’s easily the most recognizable person on screen and blows everyone out of the water as far as acting goes. For being so hyped up as one of the main people of this film he was maybe in a half hour of this two-hour drama, maybe? I think he is a fantastic actor and even though his character is a little rough around the edges (racist) it unfortunately goes with the time period, and I was on his side throughout the movie more so than the leading kid.
I believe a main problem as well, other than a real story, was the amount of characters and the unnecessary time spent on them more so then the main kid. It kind of reminded me of The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire, where you become aquatinted with a lot of people, but in the TV setting you have time. Two hours is not enough time for what he may have been trying to do.
Lastly, this film just reminds me too much of how awful teens can be but does make me appreciate that I am no longer one. Maybe this would have been a little better if I was still in high school but right now, tonight, I didn’t understand why we were supposed to care about our protagonist. I hope David Chase does try again but he really needs to sit down and rethink a few things. Mainly that television shows and movies are two different things.