Writer/director David Chase (the creator of The Sopranos) turns his attention to film with this nostalgic look at growing up in the 60's when rock & roll meant everything. There will always be "coming of age" films and the trick is to find an original way to tell your story. While probably not purely biographical, Mr. Chase delivers a film that honestly recalls growing up in suburban New Jersey obsessed with music after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and The Rolling Stones on Hollywood Palace.
Doug (played by an excellent John Magaro) lives with his sister and parents in a pretty typical family setting. With a hard working dad, stay at home mom, but a restless urge to break out of the mold, Doug forms a band with some friends and starts to play local parties doing covers. What happens to Doug over the course of the film and where the music takes him is the basis of the story.
Doug's dad is played convincingly by James Gandolfini, a blue collar "every" dad who finds solace in his evening ice cream (much like his TV mobster counterpart). His mom is played by Molly Price, also perfect in house coat and curlers usually behind an ironing board. His younger sister, Evelyn narrates the film and offers significant insight and thoughtful questions throughout. The other major characters are Wells, played by Will Brill, the lead guitarist of the band and Grace Deitz, played by Bella Heathcote, the object of John's affections.
What really sets the film apart is the fantastic soundtrack and attention to detail of every musical aspect. Mr. Chase gave the reins to Steve Van Zandt as musical director and supervisor. As a true historian of rock & roll as well as a wonderful musician in his own right, Mr. Van Zandt is the perfect choice to oversee this important aspect of the film. From his Cuban heels to the way he positions his wrist while playing drums, Doug's got the look and sound just right, as does the rest of the band. Apparently Mr. Chase hired actors first and then Mr. Van Zandt took them to a sort of "rock & roll boot camp" to prepare them for playing musicians. A lot of the instrumental work is actually done by members of the E Street band and fellow guitarist, Bobby Bandiera. The song selection is an eclectic mix of hits and rarities from the 60's.
"Not Fade Away" is made with love and respect. It's a fresh look at an amazing era, seen through the eyes and actions of a very talented cast. Not to mention, a great musical history lesson for today's teens.