James Gandolfini stars in 'Not Fade Away'

'Not Fade Away' tries a little too hard, but Gandolfini as a 1960s father is a standout.

Paramount Vantage/AP
James Gandolfini stars in 'Not Fade Away.'

David Chase, the creator “The Sopranos” and one of the seminal figures in television history, makes his feature film directing debut with “Not Fade Away,” a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama set in New Jersey in the '60s. It’s a “personal” movie that, in some ways, seems impersonal. Everything seems a bit too varnished and staged and overly familiar.

Doug (John Magaro), who lives with his little sister (Meg Guzulescu) and blustery parents (Molly Price and James Gandolfini), has dropped out of college to make it big with the rock band he started in high school. He also has a work-in-progress relationship with well-to-do girlfriend Grace (Bella Heathcote), which is emblematic of the class consciousness that suffuses this story. Chase works in a lot of pop references – Doug’s group covers the Rolling Stones and the Kinks – and some of his cultural remembrances have a lovely glow. (Doug admires the music of Leadbelly, too.) But everybody tries too strenuously to summon up the past while giving it the immediacy of the present. Gandolfini, though, is a standout as the old-school father who can’t abide his new-style son (but loves him anyway). Grade: C+ (Rated R for pervasive language, some drug use and sexual content.)

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