A movie too cliche to Not Fade Away

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Barry Wetcher

Douglas (John Magaro) practices with his fellow band members to attempt to become a successful rock band. Poorly developed subplots and a long runtime hinder Not Fade Away from being the sweet homage to the 1960’s it could have been.

Victor Dos Santos, Assistant A&E Editor

It’s unfortunate that a film as strange and atmospheric as Not Fade Away is just one big self-indulgent, tonally inconsistent, irritating mess.

Set in America in the 1960s, when everyone wanted to be the next big star in rock ‘n’ roll, the film centers on young Douglas (John Magaro) who decides to start a band with his two friends.  This could have been one of the more interesting aspects of the film, but unfortunately the dynamic relationship between the three friends never comes across as genuine.  There is never a sense of true camaraderie that suggests these people would ever hang out in reality.

Every character comes across as being extremely shallow and obsessed with pursuing his or her own delusional dreams of grandeur.  Perhaps if Douglas and his friends were better developed as characters there would be an explanation for why these people acted in this arrogant manner.

What is particularly concerning is that there are moments when the film’s writer and director, David Chase, attempts to give some backstory to the other players, but for some reason never chooses to do anything more than add a line implying two of the band members had a falling out at some point in their childhoods.

It is even stranger that whenever Chase attempts to develop a character he does so by setting up a subplot for that particular character that never seems to go anywhere.  A great majority of the film’s runtime is occupied by a relationship between James Gandolfini and Magaro that is fueled by some of the most bizarre dialogue and forced chemistry.  The relationship existed within the film not only to convey the struggle rebellious youths of the 1960s experienced, but to also let the audience know that Not Fade Away is actually a coming-of-age film.

The movie decided to include one of the most ambiguous and weird endings to help convey an almost instantaneous shift into adulthood for young Douglas.  The coming-of-age aspect of the film feels insignificant, as there are so many other things going on at once it’s almost hard to tell what the movie wants to be.

There are subplots that involve a girl being sent away to a mental institution, a man getting cancer, a brutal motorcycle accident that all feel extraneous.  It is quite difficult to describe this film as being anything but poorly constructed material.  With a runtime of almost two hours, Not Fade Away is a film that fails to tell a coherent story because it has a few too many stories to tell.