Maureen Van Zandt, Steven Van Zandt, Denise Kelly Chase and director David… (Andy Kropa / Getty Images )
Google the name of "The Sopranos" creator David Chase and the word "genius" and you'll get more than 1.5 million hits. We're sure Chase might find this a bit flattering, though his new movie, "Not Fade Away," works hard to dispute the notion that creative inspiration is somehow ethereal and available only to the gods.
"Not Fade Away" is a coming-of-age story about a teenage Jersey boy named Doug (John Magaro) dreaming of being a rock 'n' roll star as the Beatles and Rolling Stones take over the charts and airwaves in 1964. This career path puts Doug at odds with his disapproving father (James Gandolfini), who lectures him early in the film that success is "10% inspiration, 90% perspiration."
Doug shakes his head, believing that art can't be reduced to such maxims. But as the movie goes along and the '60s unfold and Doug and his band enjoy success in fits and spurts, it's clear that Chase himself does subscribe to the notion. Gandolfini's words are even reprised later in the film, and this time Doug, older and wiser, smiles, having learned that there's a time for dreaming and there's a time for doing. To everything there is a season.
(There are no Byrds songs in the film, but the movie's soundtrack, put together by Steve Van Zandt, is a work of beauty. We're told a double-vinyl set will be issued, as well as a CD.)
There's another guy in Doug's band who's always saying they need to keep rehearsing and then maybe in a year they'll be ready. Maybe. He's not necessarily a doofus, but he's never going to get out of Jersey, either. You've got to put up or shut up. You've got to sweat to succeed.
It's a can-do message that might resonate with Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members if they can put aside preconceived notions about what a post-"Sopranos" project from Chase might look like.
At a screening Monday on the Paramount Pictures lot, one Oscar blogger shook his head after the closing credits, muttering, "That was nothing like 'The Sopranos,'" which might be true if you watched the show and only paid attention to the wiseguy elements. The yearning over missed opportunities, the ambivalence about the responsibilities inherent in adulthood, the push and pull between generations is pure Chase, and it rings as true in "Not Fade Away" as it did in his HBO series.
"Not Fade Away" (due Dec. 21) is a small gem of a film, hopefully one that won't get lost in the shuffle in the end-of-the-year, awards-season crush.
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