Saturday, October 6, 2012

Not Fade Away (2012) New York Film Festival 2012

David Chase's follow up to the Sopranos and his feature film directing debut is a a disappointing cliche filled tale of high school kids who form a band in the 1960's.

My two over riding thoughts when I saw the film were first "Haven't we been here before?" The other was to wonder where was the story editor to oversee the writing since even Chase's earliest scripts for things like Kolchack and Rockford Files weren't as cliche as this.

The film follows a bunch of kids from their waning days in high school as they form a band and then try to keep it up as they drift in and out of relationships, battle with their parents, and go to college. Think of every cliche of a drama like this and Chase hits it dead on. Even a late in the game incident with a motorcycle brought about a not so unexpected result.

You'll notice I'm not really going into the plot in any detail and that's because Chase doesn't bother to do so in the film. We just jump from incident to incident in a well worn out prescribed fashion. There is almost nothing new here and when it is Chase disposes it in a such away that you wonder why the hell he brought it up in the first place (The committal of the "weird sister"). Seriously if you're not several steps of the characters you really don't watch much TV or movies.

If I really wanted to be cruel I'd start to pick apart the film's internal errors. For example no one was watching the time frame errors beginning with our hero going to college with very short hair in late August and returning in November with a long curly mop. Other sequences happen with a rapidity that doesn't seem to jibe with the calendar. When you watch the film think about how much time passes between scenes and you'll end up puzzled.

Equally jarring are the plot holes which pepper the film, such as how and why does Douglas show up outside a certain apartment when there is no reason other than to effect a reconciliation which propels the final portion of the film.

And as for the writing of the parental characters, even the worst sitcoms aren't this bad and cliche. Douglas' mother was old hat in the 1950's. She's a whiny shrew and is just plain awful. The casting of Christopher MacDonald as Douglas's girlfriend's father sinks the role completely because while he's good, the fact he's played so many jerks in earlier comedic films instantly kills any respect we have for him as well as any weight to what he does.

James Ganolfini is all but completed wasted in a role that simply has him either saying fatherly advice or screaming at his son for long hair, and lack of respect. In his favor he does have three great moments that make me wonder what the film could have been in better hands One is a confession at dinner with his son, one involves him watching TV and the last is him showing how much he loves his son as he heads off to LA ("don't say anything").

Lastly David Chase said that he has Douglas's sister narrate the story because he liked the idea of her doing so and because of how it works at the ending. I will give you that the end is good but fails to uplift the film despite it's best efforts. The real problem with her narrating the film is she can't have seen the vast majority of what happens in the film. It's even more glaring in the face of Chase saying at the press conference that she narrates because she took in everything that was happening around her...really?

I'm going to end this here by saying that as much as I don't like the film and as much as there is really wrong with the film I don't hate it. If you can take it for what it is, flaws and all, it's not bad. The trouble is it's a weak film not only from a man who redefined television, but it's a film that is written more poorly than any thing that I had ever seen from his pen in the last 40 years.

If you must see a coming of age film aat the New York Film Festival see Olivier Assayas's infinitely better Something in the Air, which desoite its own flaws is more real and touching.

The film is screening as the centerpiece tonight before opening in December

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