Movie Review: 'Not Fade Away' -- 3 stars

John Magaro as Douglas in a scene from

John Magaro as Douglas in a scene from "Not Fade Away." (Credit: John Magaro as Douglas in a scene from "Not Fade Away." )

Not Fade Away
3 stars
Directed by David Chase
Starring John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill, James Gandolfini
Rated R
Opens Friday

"The Sopranos" creator David Chase makes his big-screen directorial debut with a much different New Jersey story in "Not Fade Away," which depicts the travails of an aspiring Garden State band during the 1960s.

The flick zeroes in on the ways the main character's big hair, stylish boots and rock 'n' roll attitude contrast with his old-fashioned father, a terrifying disciplinarian played by James Gandolfini. That's not the most original concept, but Chase renders it with an eye for authenticity instead of period fetishism.

These are real, working class people with lives defined by realistic limitations and modest expectations, not the sort of sudden rise to fame we're accustomed to seeing from past iterations of this story.  Douglas (John Magaro) has big dreams when he forms a blues-inspired band with his friends. Success is hard to come by, but the sort of intense internecine disputes that have wrecked so many other bands, are not.

The movie doesn't offer the sort of retro kick you might expect, but the best way to convey the essence of a particular point in history is to focus on a series of everyday, mundane events that collectively add up to something more, rather than specific hairstyles, fashion choices or other superficial trappings. From its idyllic beginnings through its tumultuous end, the '60s firmly shaped the modern American conscience. "Not Fade Away" presents the full range of that experience, without setting its sights beyond ordinary friends in an ordinary town hoping for something more.


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