AFF 2012 Review: NOT FADE AWAY

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

The time has arrived for the Austin Film Festival and this lovely gem of a film opened the fest for me.  As a huge fan of rock music, it was a no-brainer to select this movie.  Written and directed by David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, Not Fade Away tells a fictional story of rock ‘n roll’s impact on America and its youth, particularly a group of kids growing up in New Jersey.  The movie begins in the early 1960s during the British invasion of rock ‘n roll music.  The Beatles and The Rolling Stones began to dominate the radio airwaves and American teens were forever changed.  Chase’s film mainly follows the life of Jersey teenager Douglas (John Magaro) whose life and attitude changes when bitten by the rock bug and forms a band with his buddies Gene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill).

Chase, who attended the screening at the lovely  Paramount Theater, based the film on his experiences growing up during this era, but did stress that the film is not intended to be wholly autobiographical.  He perfectly recreates the period, using the appropriate clothing, cars, props, etc.  With this film, he offers an exceptionally written coming of age story during a sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll revolution.  The movie, which Chase noted, was surprisingly shot in digital HD.  I say surprisingly, because it really does look like it was shot on film.  It appears perfectly grainy, gritty and dark when appropriate.  During the Q&A session, Chase praised his cinematographer Eigil Bryld and he truly deserves it.

Sopranos actor and E-Street band member Steven Van Zandt served as the musical consultant and deserves high praise as well.  The soundtrack is absolutely perfect.  Chase and Van Zandt use the songs beautifully in their respective scenes.  The cast is nothing short of amazing.  Magaro, whose work I admired in LIBERAL ARTS recently, shows even more talent as the lead character.  I can easily see him cast as a young Bob Dylan.  The movie also features stellar turns by James Gandolfini (Douglas’ father), Bella Heathcoate (Grace), and an amazing standout appearance by Dominique McElligott as Grace’s sister.


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