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Not Fade Away

I just kind of happened to come across Not Fade Away by accident.  I knew nothing of the film, or even what it was about, and it turned out to be one of my favorite films of the year.

The story tells the tale of a band, and how the members of that band get together in the hopes of fulfilling their dreams and making it big.  It takes place beginning in the early 60’s right at the time of Kennedy’s assassination.  No doubt a very tumultuous time for our country and a very exciting time for Rock N’ Roll.

The British invasion was about to happen, and around that time everyone and their mother formed a band in the hopes of becoming the next Beatles or The Rolling Stones.  Douglas (Akron’s own John Magaro) is one of those kids with those dreams.  He’s a drummer and soon is asked to drum in a band with some local high school kids.  They’re going to rule the world.  They cut their chops by playing local house parties, and getting boo’d off stage for the most part.  How can no one understand the greatness that resides inside of them!

The film is probably the most realistic portrayal of being in a band since the film Once.  The only reason it is able to do this is because it does not have grandiose notions of what it is to be in a band, and what it means in order to try and achieve those dreams. It’s an honest vision of everything that happens when you first start a band, and all the growing pains that come with it.  Namely being the fact that you’re just not as good as you think you are, and when you finally start to get real good you realize that perhaps those bands you idolized are just at a different level.

Maybe it’s because I found myself relating to the film in many ways that others may not be able to that I liked it so much.  At its core though it’s a great film about relationships, and growth, and rebellion.  Douglas has these wild notions of what it means to grow up in the 60’s about war, and the counter-culture, and he sounds like an idiot at times while trying to explain this to his father who alienates him (James Ganolfini).  It’s intentional, and it’s the smartest thing about the film.  Most films from this era try and make a statement about the political and social movements of the time.  Not Fade Away is not afraid to take a step away from this and be simple in its story-telling.

Director David Chase is most well known for being the creator of The Sopranos and fans of the show will be able to pick out a few similarities here as well.  The film actually plays like a pilot for a TV show, and is even shot in a limited aspect ratio to feel like a cramped TV show from its time.  It’s not a film I’ve seen on any critics list, and frankly I wouldn’t expect it to be either, but it’s one of those films that seems more built for my own personal taste and speed.   That’s why I loved it so much.

Not Fade Away is a poignant and beautiful little film that will not enter a lot of peoples film-viewing radar, but if you’re able to catch it you won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A-