Totally buried by Paramount Vantage at the end of 2012, David Chase’s Not Fade Away is a funny and nostalgic time portal back to the 60’s, with a fantastic soundtrack, and a killer supporting performance from James Gandolfini. While the film possibly feels incomplete (I really would love to see a miniseries that picks up right after the events of the final scene), it’s yet another reminder of how well-observed Chase is as a storyteller, and how he really needs to be doing more work. The dialogue is sharp as a tack and I loved the freewheeling, almost rambling quality to Not Fade Away’s narrative. Bella Heathcote is positively alluring as Grace, the object of desire for eager musician Douglas, played with sensitivity by John Magaro, who with his buddies has dreams of making it big as a Beatles-inspired musical act. Gandolfini is Douglas’s extremely disapproving father who doesn’t understand the “noise” that his long haired son is creating in the garage.
There’s an excellent sense of time and place in Not Fade Away, and you get the feeling that Chase really knows these characters. If only he had been given a bit more time to tell the story (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that stuff was left on the cutting room floor) because while what we’re left with is strong and enjoyable, there were times that I felt like it could have been even more expansive and thematically probing. Still, great music, solid performances, Heathcote and Gandolfini steal the show, and really nice cinematography from Eigil Bryld (House of Cards, In Bruges). After debuting at the NY Film Festival, this $20 million production would go on to gross less than $1 million in a shamefully small release, and while critics were mostly kind, people underrated this one a bit; it didn’t deserve to die on the vine without anyone even knowing that it was an option. Not Fade Away is available on Blu-ray and via various streaming providers.