Years ago, a radio consultant did a demographic study and determined that people, especially men, always tend to go back to the music they listened to between the ages of sixteen and twenty. It makes some sense. At that age, we are no longer kids; we have most of the autonomy and few of the responsibilities of adults. We might be running around with our friends and experiencing first love with a pulsating, raucous soundtrack. Who wouldn’t be nostalgic for that music?
In the 70s George Lucas took us on a vivid, enthralling trip back to his 1962 — the guys, the girls, the cars, the wall-to-wall music — in American Graffiti. In the 90s Tom Hanks made his debut as a writer-director with That Thing You Do!, the relentlessly likable tale of a fledgling Erie, PA rock band. Now, in 2012, we have acclaimed veteran TV producer David Chase taking us back on a clearly autobiographical trip to the late 60‘s in Not Fade Away.
Chase, a seven-time Emmy award winner, is best known for creating the iconic, ground-breaking HBO series The Sopranos, but before deciding on film school, he played drums in a number of New Jersey bands in the 60s. Not Fade Away, about a drummer (John Magaro) in a struggling New Jersey band, is his feature writing-directing debut and it feels like something that’s been boiling inside of him for years, bursting to get out. Like many things that boil too long and finally burst or explode all over the place — a volcano, for example — the results are a mess.
Not Fade Away is all over the place, a hodgepodge of meandering sub-plots about not especially compelling or even sympathetic characters. With painstaking attention to period details and a pricey classic rock soundtrack, Chase seems not only preoccupied with recreating and reliving the precious 60s but more interested in revisiting, maybe even reinventing, his own past and less concerned with compelling, coherent storytelling. Every guy has the girl from their youth that they still can’t forget. I wonder how long the 60-something Chase spent looking for a 20-something actress to play the girl he never forgot.
Everyone can name a favorite song that came out when they were young, maybe even more than one. It can be easy to forget that for every song we loved when we were between sixteen and twenty, there were dozens of tunes that sucked and have been rightfully forgotten. Sometimes it is better to not hold onto everything. Maybe some things are better off fading away.
Not Fade Away is currently playing at the Ritz Five.
Author: David J. Greenberg
David J. Greenberg teaches screenwriting at University of the Arts and Arcadia University. He has been hired to write or doctor over 30 feature film screenplays. His film “The True Meaning of Cool” won an award from the American Film Institute. davidjgreenberg.com