NOT FADE AWAY
By Gary “He’s taking this too seriously” Murray
Starring John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill and Bella Heathcote
Written and directed by David Chase
Running time 112 min
Selig Film Rating—Cable
Not Fade Away is about Rock-n-Roll and what exactly is failure. The first image we see if of the Peppermint Twist. A trio of guys dance and move but truly there is no passion in what they are doing. It represents both the time and the music scene at that moment. They we cut to two guys on a train in England, they are talking about old American blues and a bond is being formed. These two lads are Mick and Keith. But this is not a story about the Rolling Stones.
The story concerns a band in the suburbs of New Jersey that has no name. When the little drama opens we see both the fractured nature of the country and music. President Kennedy has just been shot and the entire country is in mourning. Eugene (Jack Huston) is the local guitar hero who is playing songs in a high school assembly. All the guys notice that all the girls dig the musicians. The first spark starts.
The introduction of The Beatles on radio and television changes everything. Doug (John Magaro) is a drummer eventually recruited in the band. He sings back-up to Eugene. Wells (Will Brill) is the rhythm guitarist. Doug has to deal with his father Pat (James Gandolfini) a hard working man who thinks that music is more of a waste of time. Where Doug wants to keep the band playing cover tunes, Doug has different ideas.
One night at a party, Doug gets his chance to step in front of the mike. He has a soulful voice that the band needs. Everybody seems to be impressed by Doug’s vocals, from the band mates to local hot girl Grace (Bella Heathcote). The two eventually begin a relationship that has its own ups and downs.
The story of Not Fade Away is both of the band trying to make it and the times they live in. There is a smattering of the Civil Rights Movement, political correctness, conscious altering substances and the clash between the Greatest Generation and the Free Love Generation. To be honest there is way too much story that bogs down the plot.
It almost feels as if writer/director David Chase knew he had only one shot at making a movie and had to put every idea into his one film. There are so many characters and so many different strings being pulled that the intent unravels right before the eyes.
The film is truly a showcase for young John Magaro. This actor gets to show off a wide array of skills in Not Fade Away, both in acting and performing. This film could make him much more of a household name.
The only other reason to see this overwrought work is Bella Heathcote. This wide-eyed beauty and future flower child is much more the soul of the work than the band. Her dealing with every issue under the sun makes her a personification of what the youth of the time had to deal with. By the time the film ends, we know that she will be a part of the rock-n-roll circus that travels town to town.
After viewing Not Fade Away, I came back with a conclusion. Rock and Roll is dead and has been dead for years. There are facts to back up this assertion. Music Television no longer plays music and is now MTV. The most popular shows in the land are American Idol, The Voice and Glee. None of these shows truly showcases original music and are more glorified Karaoke performances.
The idea of originality and recital are gone. The kids today don’t want to be musicians with something to say but they want to be TMZ stars. Music is not important part of their lives but background filler to their lives.
Can Rock be saved? It has been done before. When it started in the 1950s, Rock-n-Roll was dangerous music that eventually was corrupted by the mainstream. Elvis went from that hip-shaking hillbilly to the nice boy serving his country. When it was almost dead, the British invasion re-ignited the flame. That flame eventually smoldered out in a failure of overdoses, deaths and massive seriousness.
The Ramones reinvented the danger and were ignored by the US. England got it and brought forth The Clash and the Sex Pistols. They eventually fell apart but fanned the flame into Heavy Metal. That off-shoot was killed by vampire hunter Kurt Cobain and the wooden spike that became the Seattle sound. Those shards have yet to be reformed into the phoenix that is Rock. We are in a transition period again, just waiting for the next generation of passionate musicians to find a voice and take center stage. I just hope it happens soon—I want some good music.