Cigarettes and penny loafers, long hair and skinny jeans, pea coats and pot. And the Beatles, the Stones and Dylan.
Its the 1960s in suburban New Jersey, a time and place and state of mind diligently re-created by David Chase in his nostalgic but emotionally true coming-of-age tale, Not Fade Away.
Chase, creator of The Sopranos mines his personal experiences and his love of early rock n roll to winning effect.
The filmmaker builds his tale around Douglas (John Magaro), a gawky high schooler who gains confidence and the approving gaze of the girls when he steps behind his drum kit.
He and his pals (Jack Huston, Will Brill), inspired by the likes of Lennon and McCartney, have formed a band, the Twylight Zones, that plays in basements, church dances and hippie soirees. Once Douglas asserts himself, leaving the drums to sing lead, the group starts to be good.
And this could be the straw that breaks the camels back between Douglas and his father (James Gandolfini), who wont tolerate the way his son has been dressing.
Of course, theres a girl: Grace Deitz (Bella Heathcote), is the impossibly beautiful, sophisticated classmate who actually tells Douglas she likes his voice. Its the beginning of a heady relationship that starts in Garden State driveways, winds its way to grungy East Village walk-ups, and reaches a moody, messy climax in a surfside house in L.A.
So, yes, Chase covers lots of ground. With astute assistance from Steve Van Zandt (The Sopranos cast member and Springsteen cohort), who supervised the soundtrack and composed one catchy gem, St. Valentines Day, Chase pays homage to old American bluesmen, R&B greats, and the British Invaders who recognized their genius.
Now and then, Not Fade Away falls back on certain narrative cliches.
And Chase bookends his movie with voice-overs from Douglas younger sister Evelyn (Meg Guzulescu). The last shot, though lovely in its So-Cal surrealness, seems off-point and anachronistic, if you take the song selection the Sex Pistols version of Roadrunner literally.
But thats nit-picking. Mostly, Not Fade Away is a hit.