Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Not Fade Away

Film #156

THE PLOT

Set in suburban New Jersey the 1960s, a group of friends form a rock band and try to make it big.

Year 1, Day 157

BEFORE: After an unplanned day off yesterday, the marathon is back and it brings with it the first advanced screening since November 1, Not Fade Away. It is written by David Chase (creator of The Sopranos) and stars James Gandolfini (also from The Sopranos) in addition to a lot of unknown, to me at least, actors.

AFTER: Unbeknownst to me, there was a Q&A following the screening with none other than David Chase himself. I’ll do things a bit out of order hear and sort of work backwards because it makes some sense; trust me, it will make at least some sense.

One of the most interesting things that I thought came out of the Q&A was that Chase loves ambiguity and doesn’t like to be fed information. This is definitely obvious in the film and it has some upsides and downsides. Typically, I’m a fan of ambiguity; it makes me think about what’s going on which can be much more entertaining than just spacing out. It gets your imagination going and thinking about the possibilities to everything that is happening. However, it really hurt the film at the beginning.

For every film the beginning is a very important part. It’s what sets the mood for the rest of the film and you usually make up your mind about the film within the first act or so. In the case of Not Fade Away, it was a very slow start. And there are two factors to that: (1) the cast; and (2) the ambiguity. First the cast. As I said before there are a lot of relatively unknown actors with a few big names (Gandolfini and Brad Garret are ones that come to mind). Looking at their filmography the three kids, Douglas (John Magaro), Gene (Jack Huston), and Grace (Bella Heathcote) aren’t new to the industry; they each have a few credits to their names. But by not being easily recognizable faces (like a Tom Hanks or a Brad Pitt for instance) there’s an effort required to attach the characters to the actors. Add to that the fact that the boys look very much alike (long, dark hair; similar attire) and it was a good ten to fifteen minutes before I could stop consciously thinking about who was who and just pay attention to the film itself. Add to that again the ambiguity present throughout the film, and the beginning just seems like a random assortment of scenes.

As the film progressed though, things got much better. You begin to know the characters, connect with them, and feel what they’re feeling. And once you begin to familiarize yourself with what’s going on the ambiguity is no longer a problem and starts to add to the entertainment value of the film. It’s also towards the end as the drama increases that the acting stands out. Gandolfini does an amazing job as Douglas’ father and Magaro, who plays Douglas, also gives an amazing performance. The two play off each other very well and have a genuine father-son relationship feeling about them.

Not Fade Away was certainly an interesting film. My complaints and compliments aside, the content of the film was very intriguing. I am in no way a music connoisseur; the majority of my iTunes library is full of film soundtracks. But I still like to learn about “real” music and Not Fade Away definitely delivered in that category. On that note, if you are a music buff, Chase’s feature film debut will deliver. If you are looking for a turn-the-brain-off film, Not Fade Away is should not be the film to see. If you do watch it, give the film time; it starts slow but really turns around in the end.

Not Fade Away opens in theaters on December 21, 2012.

RATING: 4 out of 5