Film: Not Fade Away (2012)
Cast includes: Jon Magaro (My Soul to Take), Jack Huston (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Will Brill (King Kelly), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows)
Writer/Director: David Chase (The Sopranos)
Musical Direction: Steve Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band)
Genre: Drama (112 minutes)
During the performance of “Peppermint Twist” by Joey Dee & The Starliters, there’s an interruption with the familiar Indian-head test pattern. “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system.” It’s just our Uncle Sam keeping us safe from an A-bomb attack. In 1966, Mick Jagger sang “I Can’t Get No” on the Ed Sullivan Show… who knew they’d become the Rolling Stones? In fact, “My brother and some friends started a band. Like most bands… you’ve never heard of them.” “I’m starting a band like the Stones. I need someone to back me up on vocal,” says Wells. How hard could it be to play the drums? Douglas never had much luck with girls… the popular ones, like Grace, anyway. “I’m a crap drummer and a shit athlete. Nothing ever works for me with girls,” says Douglas. After high school, Douglas wants a college with an ROTC program… reassuring news for his hard-working mom and dad.
Somehow, all the practice sessions in the basement pay off because from time to time, they aren’t half bad. They study all the latest performers, looking for their sound… The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley… the list goes on. College introduces other influences into the mix. When Douglas comes home for Thanksgiving break, his dad hardly recognizes him. “You look like you just got off the boat at Ellis Island.” And the tension builds… “You think the army’s gonna let you drive tanks dressed like a fruit?” “They’re Cuban heels,” says Douglas. “They’re nigger shoes,” says Dad. Anyway, the band’s going to be playing at a local talent show. But before the show, Wells is demonstrating how to get the last embers from a joint and accidentally swallows the roach. When Douglas fills in singing lead, Grace thinks he’s good… “more soulful than usual.” Eventually, the band has an opportunity to do a demo, but they still haven’t figured out their sound. This time Douglas wants to sing lead. “I don’t want to do the demo if it’s just gonna be shit.”
The movie, like the band, stumbles through an era with many conflicting cultural influences… race, war, poverty, class, sex.... Steve Van Zandt (an original member of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band) styled the music for the movie, and he did an excellent job with multiple musical influences. Every detail of the film is like a trip down memory lane for post-war baby boomers. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable two hours, except that the story line is just as fractured as the cultural influences. The relationship between Douglas and his dad is well developed, as is the relationship between Douglas and Grace. But after that, it gets slightly fuzzy. We find we don’t care as much about the band’s story because it isn’t so easy to follow… yet the band’s story is supposed to be at the center of the narrative. Many will forgive that minor detail because it’s still a fun ride with terrific music. “You wouldn’t understand about being in a band. That’s my true family…” and just as dysfunctional.
2 popped kernels
There were many bands in the 60s that you’ve never heard of… this is one of them
Rated: R (Language, sexual content)
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Somewhat Engaging
Language: True to life