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December 10, 2012

NOT FADE AWAY — NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2012

Not Fade Away“Not Fade Away” is a freeform drama about an old fashioned subject — the romantic rite to passage that comes from playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band. It’s a movie that has “labor of love” plastered all over it. Writer-director David Chase (creator of “The Sopranos”) is clearly living out his childhood dream of being a young successful rock drummer.

Part social essay and part nostalgic character study, the movie rambles by in episodic time jumping skips about Douglas (played for keeps by John Magaro), a Bob Dylan-lookalike who plays drums in ‘60s-era New Jersey. Social change is all around. The production design team stays true to the look and feel of the period. Great mood. You feel like you've gone back in time. The music of Van Morrison, Robert Johnson, James Brown, and the Kinks feature prominently. Choice blues tunes from several other Left Bank-favorites impart a sophisticated level of musical taste to the organically motivated narrative.

True to his rebellious ‘60s ethos, lefty Douglas doesn’t get along with his working-class dad Pat (James Gandolfini). Douglas falls in with a covers band playing Stones’ songs at parties in their suburban area. A chance to play front man brings out Douglas's rock persona ego in full swagger. Douglas proves the power of his stage charm when he takes up with a high-school hottie named Grace (Bella Heathcote). Heartbreak, reversals, and squandered opportunities come with the territory.

“Not Fade Away” is a detail-oriented movie. The filmmakers include eccentric bits of character behavior that jives with the social-consciousness zeitgeist of the period.

As its title hints at, “Not Fade Away” is about the perpetuation of communally created rock ‘n’ roll music. It’s a coming-of-age movie with its heart in the right place. Besides, it's almost impossible to fault a movie that uses the Sex Pistols’ version of Jonathan Richman's "Road Runner" in the finale scene.

Rated R. 86 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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