Sax von Stroheim writes:
Not Fade Away (David Chase, 2012)
A few different ways into talking about this movie:
- As you probably notice, I pay a bit of attention to current movies, but, even so, I completely missed that this had opened in New York City (and was already on its way out) until early last week when I was looking up showtimes for Life of Pi. I would have thought that the first feature film from the creator of The Sopranos would be a bigger deal, but I guess the dark side of being in this so-called Golden Age of Television is that people would rather see filmmakers migrate to the small screen than for them to go in the other direction.
- It was bittersweet to see this movie on the same day as the Oscar nomination were announced, because it is a very lovely movie, but one that really had no chance of making a splash as an “Awards contender”. It’s too comfortably small scale, it looks much more conventional than it is, and it doesn’t have any show-offy performances (or show-offy set-pieces, for that matter). So, I’m a bit bummed that the movie didn’t seem to find an audience, and I blame the whole marketing/PR/journalism industry for that failure. I think the movie would have appealed to Chase’s fans and to fans of the television shows he influenced (in some ways the movie is an “answer record” to Mad Men), if those fans had really known about it.
- The film itself – about a couple of guys in New Jersey who half-heartedly try to make it as a rock band – really gets at the way time seems to slip through your fingers. The way you can look up and realize two years have passed since you said you were going to do that thing you said you were just about to get around to doing. But it does all this without ever making a big deal in it. There’s no scene where they say, like, “Man, I can’t believe time has slipped through our fingers like that”, which is probably a strike against it for people looking for the movie’s theme. (Its “theme song” is “Time Is On My Side”, though, so maybe they’ll pick up on that). It’s a bit like John Milius’ masterpiece Big Wednesday in the way that its rhythms feel like how life really moves and less like how screenplays are usually structured.
- James Gandolfini, playing an angry New Jersey dad, is really great. He was also really great as an alcoholic hitman in Killing Them Softly, another Awards-season movie that didn’t find an audience. I suspect that loading all of the movies-for-grown-ups into the last two months of the year, in the hopes that they’ll win awards, is a really terrible idea, because then they’re all fighting over the same tiny sliver of an audience that’s left for these kinds of movies.
- Had this movie come out back when I was in college, it would have been my favorite movie ever for at least a week or so.
- Coincidentally, I’ve been listening to this collection of rock music put out by Elektra from 1963-1973, and it makes a great companion to the movie. Chase and his music supervisor – Little Stevie Van Zandt – nail the sounds of the era.