“The Sopranos” was one of the greatest television shows of all time. Mixing pop culture, the New Jersey mafia and avant garde storytelling, it was nothing short of hypnotic. Now David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos,” hits the big screen for the first time with “Not Fade Away,” a film he both wrote and directed.
The plot for “Not Fade Away” is simple. A group of teens in 1960s New Jersey decide to form a rock band. The teens act like self-obsessed jerks, smoke cigarettes, talk about music, listen to music, and occasionally play music. The cycle repeats until the film mercifully ends after 112 minutes. Oh. James Gandolfini shows up periodically to give heated, shallow lectures to his son, like he’s the only one involved with the film that has an idea of how pointless everything is.
What happened? Chase employs the same storytelling technique that he used with “Sopranos,” but without a sprawling canvass of colorful characters to follow while most of the action happens off screen, “Fade Away” does exactly that. Each annoying character bleeds into the next, with most of whatever conflict there is happening off screen. Chase is more interested in playing his favorite songs and capturing everybody’s thoughts on it than telling an interesting story. The horribly mediocre Richard Curtis film “Pirate Radio” treaded in similar waters, but at least it had some entertaining bits. “Not Fade Away” is almost like a pompous, self-indulgent concert film starring a garage band nobody has heard of. It’s ridiculous.
With music produced by The E-Street Band’s Steven van Zandt, the music, both original and classic, is excellent, featuring songs from The Beatles, a rarity. Everything else, however, is terrible. Chase’s visual style consists of master shots of a band playing music or close-ups of actor’s faces as they speak. It feels like a film student could have done a better job with the direction. Not to mention the screenplay. How could anybody want to spend almost two hours with any character in this film?
2013 isn’t even a week old, but “Not Fade Away” already has my vote for worst movie of the year. It will take a colossal train wreck to usurp this magnificent dud as the worst time you can spend watching a movie this year. “Not Fade Away” really is that bad.