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Movie Review: Not Fade Away

January 4, 2013

Not Fade Away PosterNot Fade Away – A Paramount Vantage Release

Release Date: December 28th, 2012

Rated 14A for coarse language, sexual content and substance abuse

Running time: 112 minutes

David Chase (dir.)

David Chase (writer)

Steven Van Zandt (music supervisor)

John Magaro as Douglas

Jack Huston as Eugene

Will Brill as Wells

Dominique McElligott as Joy Deitz

Brahm Vaccarella as Joe Patuto

Gregory Perri as Skip

James Gandolfini as Pat

Bella Heathcote as Grace Dietz

Molly Price as Antoinette

Meg Guzulescu as Evelyn

Christopher McDonald as Jack Dietz

Brad Garrett as Jerry Ragovoy

Not Fade Away

©Paramount Vantage.  All Rights Reserved.

Pat (James Gandolfini) and his son Douglas (John Magaro) in Not Fade Away.

Our reviews below:


Not Fade Away Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

“There is no past, no future either, just the now” a character solemnly intones in Not Fade Away, a coming of age drama set in the 1960s and carried by an excellent soundtrack of classic rock songs.

Coming of age in the 1960s, Douglas (John Magaro) is a kid from New Jersey who dreams of becoming a rock star, playing the drums and singing in a band with his friends Eugene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill).  As he starts a relationship with Grace Dietz (Bella Heathcote), his aspirations to become a musician also put him at odds with his traditional Italian father, Pat (James Gandolfini).  The band quickly becomes like a second family, but the drama that goes on at home with his mother (Molly Price) and younger sister (Meg Guzulescu) is mirrored by tensions between the bandmates.

John Magaro and James Gandolfini are both excellent, and the scenes between the father and son are highlights of the film.  What I like about Not Fade Away and what makes the film work is the attention to detail that is paid to the 1960s setting.  Archival footage of world events and old performances of The Rolling Stones move the narrative forward between 1963 and 1968, providing an engaging background to the central story.  Although the film has a bit of a relaxed pace at 112 minutes and a few of the plot points might seem familiar, Not Fade Away really comes alive in the believable characters who are perfectly captured against the authentic backdrop of an endlessly fascinating decade.

Directed by David Chase, with elements of the screenplay drawn from his own personal life growing up in the 1960s, Not Fade Away is a believable slice of life drama set to an excellent soundtrack of classic rock songs.


Not Fade Away Review by Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

Written and directed by David Chase, Not Fade Away is a quiet film about a group of friends in the 1960s who form a rock band in suburban New Jersey.  Douglas (John Magaro) starts as the drummer and back-up singer, but soon realizes that he has the potential to sing lead, much to the dismay of his friend Eugene (Jack Huston) who is the current lead vocalist.

Douglas’ more traditional Italian father (James Gandolfini) has trouble accepting his son’s desire to be in a band, and takes issue with his long hair and the way he is dressing.  As much as about the band, Not Fade Away is also about a group of teenagers who all are starting a generation that seems very foreign to their parents, and the struggles that come along with finding their individuality.

The acting is good from the relatively unknown young leads, and those who either grew up in the ‘60s or love that style of music, will most likely quite like this one.  One has to wonder reading about David Chase’s teenage years what parts of his own experiences he drew upon to write the film.  Overall, this is a worthwhile film to seek out if you have it playing in your area.


Not Fade Away Review by Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Set in the 1960s, Not Fade Away follows a group of teens who wish to start their own band.  Douglas (John Magaro), who lives with his traditional Italian-American family, is captivated by The Rolling Stones.  Douglas and his friends form a rock band, much to the annoyance of his dad (James Gandolfini) who is also perturbed by his son’s fashion and hair style choices.  But Douglas begins to see the band as a second family.  His popularity among peers garners the attention of Grace (Bella Heathcote), a pretty girl who he has always liked.

Not Fade Away captures both the music and changing ideology of the 1960s.  While smoking, drugs and drinking now known to be dangerous were commonplace, revolutions such as civil rights and pacifism were becoming the norm.  The actors in the film perfectly capture the cultural generation gap perfectly.  The music in Not Fade Away is also superb, with each song reflecting the mood of the moment.

Not Fade Away is a well made movie that will appeal to film and Rolling Stones fans alike.


Not Fade Away Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Embracing a different kind of music from your parents is one of the ways teenagers find their own identity and come of age.  This was particularly true in the early to mid-’60s, with the evolution of rock & roll music.  Writer and director David Chase (The Sopranos creator) tells a believable story of an Italian-American teenager, Douglas (John Magaro) whose dream is to break away from his New Jersey roots and make it big as a drummer and singer with his buddies in their own rock band.  Predictably, his Dad (James Gandolfini) thinks the dream is a lot of nonsense and argues endlessly with his son whose hair is getting longer and his clothes getting stranger.

Not Fade Away captures nicely the growing tension between a father and son in an era when ideas, morals, politics and music were all changing rapidly.  The movie handles the passage of time through old black and white TV news clips, old clips of rock performances and scenes of visits from college for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Visits from home mean family get togethers and local gigs for Douglas’ band.  John Magaro handles the singing role well as the increasingly confidant Douglas.  But like a lot of bands formed in high school, the guys get into their own conflicts and eventually have to decide on their paths.

The music in Not Fade Away is really good.  David Chase pays homage to a wide range of music from the 1960s with executive director Steven Van Zandt putting together a solidly entertaining soundtrack for the film.  The other strong point in the film is the excellent performances from John Magaro and James Gandolfini (from The Sopranos).  Any of the scenes where these two actors are playing off each other are really well done and are the highlights of the film.

The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent.  I love watching Douglas’ traditional Italian family bicker and interact all in the name of family love.  Mom (Molly Price) with her dramatic flourishes and younger sister, Evelyn (Meg Guzulescu) who narrates the film are both fun to watch.  Equally interesting to watch are Douglas’ non-Italian girlfriend Grace (Bella Heathcote) and her rich family that includes an unstable sister, Joy (Dominique McElligott).  Douglas’ bandmates, Eugene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill) are also interesting characters and reflect a generation of individuals who saw the emergence of rock & roll as an opportunity for change.

Not Fade Away is a well written and well acted drama that will appeal to those who remember the 1960s or find the era of change politically and culturally interesting.  Rock & roll fans and fans of The Sopranos TV series will also want to check out this film.


Not Fade Away Review by Tony

*** (out of 4)

Not Fade Away is named for a Buddy Holly song covered by many artists including the Rolling Stones in 1964. It is loosely based on the early life of the writer/director David Chase (né DeCesare) best known as the creative force behind The Sopranos, who was a garage band drummer in 1960s New Jersey before going on to film school.

Douglas (John Magaro) starts out drumming and ends up as lead singer in a band formed in high school and continued through college. His working class Italian-American family includes the father (James Gandolfini) who is generally supportive but never misses a chance to challenges his choices, a kvetching mother (Molly Price) and a kid sister Evelyn (Meg Guzulescu) who provides narration for the story. With bandmates including the temperamental Eugene (Jack Huston) and pompous Wells (Will Brill), conflicts are inevitable, and a New York promoter (Brad Garrett) provides a reality check on their career prospects. Douglas gets into a relationship with high school rich girl Grace (Bella Heathcote) who has family problems of her own with an intolerant father (Christopher McDonald) and weird older sister (Dominique McElligott).

The film beautifully recreates the 1960s with archival TV footage including news items from the 1963 Kennedy assassination to 1967, some band performances, and clips from The Twilight Zone and other shows. The generation gap is particularly evident in the progressive feelings of Douglas and Evelyn toward minorities contrasted with the attitudes of their relatives at family gatherings. Faithful to the period, most scenes are clouded with smoke, not only from tobacco. We even get a visit from the “men in the white coats” that my mother used to warn us about back in the day when we were acting crazy.

In addition to a sensitive story and fine cast, music is an important part of the film, with good live performances beautifully meshed with recorded ones, all under the supervision of E Street Band veteran Steve Van Zandt. Thus in every way, Not Fade Away is clearly a labour of love for David Chase that will be appreciated by those of us who lived through the period and those who wish they did.


Consensus: Written and directed by David Chase, Not Fade Away is a believable coming of age film that perfectly captures the 1960s setting and is carried by strong performances as well as an excellent soundtrack of classic rock songs.  *** (Out of 4)

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