ShareThis Page

'Fade' has a good beat and you can dance to it

| Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, 1:04 p.m.

Cigarettes and penny loafers, long hair and skinny jeans, pea coats and pot. And the Beatles, the Stones, and Dylan.

No, it's not your hipster teen's Tumblr blog. It's the 1960s in suburban New Jersey, a time and place — and state of mind — diligently re-created by David Chase in his nostalgic but emotionally true coming-of-age tale, “Not Fade Away.”

Chase, creator of “The Sopranos” — the family saga whose patriarch, Tony Soprano, becomes the grumpy blue-collar dad here — mines his personal experiences and his love of early rock ‘n' roll to winning effect. The filmmaker builds his tale around Douglas (a very good John Magaro), a gawky high schooler who gains confidence and the approving gaze of the girls when he steps behind his drum kit and starts thrashing out crisp, cool beats.

He and his pals (Jack Huston, Will Brill), inspired by the likes of Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, have formed a band, the Twylight Zones, that plays in basements and backyards, at church dances and hippie soirees. Once Douglas asserts himself, leaving the drums to sing lead, the group actually starts to be good. This could be a career.

And this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back between Douglas and his father (James Gandolfini), who won't tolerate the antiwar dinner-table talk, or the way his son has been dressing.

“If you want to wear Cuban heels,” he snaps, “go live in Cuba.”

Of course, there's a girl: Grace Deitz (Bella Heathcote, last seen in Tim Burton's “Dark Shadows”), is the impossibly beautiful, sophisticated classmate who actually tells Douglas she likes his voice. It's the beginning of a heady relationship that starts in Garden State driveways, winds its way to grungy East Village walk-ups, and reaches a moody, messy climax in a surfside house in L.A.

So, yes, Chase covers lots of ground — geographically, chronologically, musically. With astute assistance from Steve Van Zandt (“The Sopranos” cast member and Springsteen cohort), who supervised the soundtrack and composed one catchy gem of a would-be pop hit, “St. Valentine's Day,” Chase pays homage to old American bluesmen, R&B greats, and the British Invaders who recognized their genius.

“I don't get it,” the teenage bandmates muse, getting stoned and listening to the Rolling Stones. “How come the English knew all about the blues, but it's been under our nose the whole time?”

Now and then, “Not Fade Away” falls back, perhaps inevitably, on certain narrative conventions and cliches. The vintage cars and clothes may be too perfect, the breakup scenes too big, the kitchen-table admonishments too rote. And Chase bookends his movie with voice-overs from an interested bystander, Douglas' younger sister, Evelyn (Meg Guzulescu). The last shot, though lovely in its So-Cal surrealness, seems off-point and anachronistic, if you take the song selection — the Sex Pistols' version of “Roadrunner” — literally.

But that's nit-picking. Mostly, “Not Fade Away” is a hit.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.