In the last moments of Not Fade Away
, the first feature film written and directed by Sopranos
creator David Chase, one of the minor characters appears on screen. She looks right in the camera and speaks slowly about the greatness of rock-'n'-roll music. Then she starts go-go dancing. Telling you this doesn’t spoil anything. Instead, it's to warn you that in the five years since his award-winning mob drama ended, Chase has lost all sense of subtlety and trust in his audience, and that the film’s previous two hours in no way support his grand premise. What we get instead is an impotent, semiautobiographical story that begs its audience to notice how many period-appropriate details it gets right. Hidden within all this ’60s window dressing is a plot that centers on Doug, a young gent from New Jersey (John Magaro) who aspires to greatness while pining for the prettiest girl in school. He eventually wins her over, thanks to his membership in a decent but ultimately hapless garage band. Chase makes stops on this journey for some scenes of Doug butting heads with his traditionalist father (an underused James Gandolfini) over his long hair, Cuban heels and liberal attitudes. Though it makes attempts at coherence and tries to delight in the power of rock music, what instead emerges is an episodic ode to the follies of youth. The dramatic moments are laughable, the romance feels like slapstick, and the attempts at comedy are groaningly bad. Every chord Chase and his cast and crew hit turns out distorted and out of tune.