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Life & Times

December 28, 2012

Cliches overshadow 'Not Fade Away'

(Continued)

The characters are thinly drawn, though the actors aren’t bad, and they really are singing and playing their instruments. Their one “original” song, a ringing imitation of the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, feels utterly authentic. No, they never would have made it. And no, they’re the only ones who fail to realize that.

“Not Fade Away” is just as soap operatic as “Sopranos,” with Douglas’ parents (James Gandolfini and Molly Price) raging through a troubled marriage, Douglas learning of the girlfriend’s sexual past and Grace’s artistically rebellious sister Joy (Dominique McElligott) tumbling into drugs.

Gandolfini’s working-class dad is forever threatening the kid, bellowing that with his sissy Cuban-heeled boots, loud clothes and long hair, “You look like you just got offa the boat.” The line resonates, so Chase has him repeat it — for years. Gandolfini has a great confessional scene, coming way too late in the narrative to make a difference.

The over-familiar narrative is delivered in episodic bites, jumping characters, settings and years. Douglas and Grace sit through the classic ’60s film “Blow Up,” and the boy complains, “What kind of movie IS this?”

Precisely. “Not Fade Away” is an original, absurdly self-conscious take on a seriously unoriginal narrative. Overlong, ambitious, but sketchy, dated and jammed with incidents and F-bombs, you’d never guess it was from a guy who spent his working life in TV, where he had entire seasons to weave his melodrama.

Or that he somehow failed to realize this formula was well-past-played when Tom Hanks offered the superior “That Thing You Do” back in the last century.

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