Release Date(s)2012 (April 30, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
R.I.P. James Gandolfini
Not Fade Away tells the fictionalized story of a rock and roll band that never quite got off the ground due to personal hang-ups, fall-outs, relationship issues and family matters. It attempts to put a little spin on the normal biographical way of doing things, but ultimately left me feeling a little cold. As advertised on the package, it’s the directorial debut of David Chase, who created The Sopranos and wrote most of the show’s episodes. And outside of a TV movie, it really is his first feature film.
The one thing about Not Fade Away that is spot on is the music, which shouldn’t be a surprise. This is after all a movie that takes place in the 60’s so the music should reflect that, but it’s nice to see an eclectic mix for once. They don’t just spin the hits of the era. There are plenty of tracks that seem fresh because of not being overused for films like this. It also has a pretty decent cast of characters, particularly James Gandolfini’s character, and they all do their best in a story that should have been a little more straightforward than it is. It tends to go in different directions, which I guess reflects the lead character who is basically a directionless punk and by the end of the film he’s not so much a directionless punk, but it just didn’t work for me. I think the film also tries to encapsulate the era from the perspectives of different people, but again, it doesn’t work for this film. The performances themselves are good, but I didn’t feel a whole lot of cohesiveness to the scenes and the individual parts were greater than the total sum. That’s not to say that this is a bad film. It just needed a bit more of a narrative punch. At times it feels like it’s aiming for that, and other times it doesn’t. It often feels like it’s more about making a point about something (especially considering the final scene which I won’t spoil).
It’s not a generic rock and roll movie by any means. There’s some good stuff in there, especially with the family drama in the film. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it reminded me quite a bit of Saturday Night Fever in that regard. The music may be on a different wavelength, but the overall point about growing up and finding direction absolutely smacks of that particular film to me. And that’s not an insult either. Saturday Night Fever happens to be one of my favorite films, but I digress. The fact is that David Chase has written and directed a mostly ok film about the subject matter, but I think it needed a bit more spit and polish. In other words, more focus on either the point or the narrative, and not trying to do both. The music, the actors and the performances are all good, and that’s really what will make or break this film with viewers.
And I don’t often complain about this, but this really should have been shot on film. I know that digital is pretty much commonplace nowadays no matter what budget you’re working under, but being that this is a period piece, it needed a grainier and more lived-in look to it. Eigil Bryld’s cinematography is perfectly fine. It’s very warm and pushes it into the “aged” territory, but it’s too smooth and too modern-looking to sell it properly, at least for me. As far as the presentation of it on the Blu-ray, it’s extremely good. Being that it’s sourced from a high quality digital format (ARRIRAW), the detail is outstanding. Color reproduction is extremely good with the warm colors that I mentioned before, but also very good skin tones. Blacks are deep, contrast is superb and there’s no evidence of excessive digital tinkering. The audio is also excellent. The English 5.1 DTS-HD track is quite good, but doesn’t seem necessary in this instance. All of the music is bright and crisp on the soundtrack, but both the dialogue and the immersive qualities take a bit of a backseat. To be fair, this story doesn’t really require aggressive surround activity, but outside of a slight bit of ambience here or there, there’s not much activity to speak of that stands out. The dialogue also could have been mixed a bit louder as it was hard to hear during some of the quieter portions of the film. It’s a very good track, but they could have went with a 2.0 track and I would have been happier. There are also three other audio tracks to choose from, French & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English 2.0 DVS, as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.
Extras include three featurettes under the heading The Basement Tapes (Track 1: The Boys in the Band, Track 2: Living in the Sixties and Track 3: Hard Act), the Building the Band featurette, deleted scenes and an insert with both Ultraviolet and Digital Copy options, the latter containing a code. It’s all brief, but I didn’t expect too much from the extras anyways. At least not from a film like this. It’s a pretty good film with some heart and soul to it, but it just needed to focus on one story instead of several and have a stronger narrative. So I guess I’d give it a slight recommendation, but not much more than a rent.
- Tim Salmons