Newbie director/writer David Chase (creator TV's groundbreaking The Sopranos) tries for something from his formative years that may have some subtle, provocative appeal, especially those of a certain age. And, influenced by a rock/bluesy soundtrack overseen by the estimable Steven Van Zandt, who appeared on the aforementioned mob series.
His semi-autobiographical Not Fade Away is more episodic than dramatically gripping and robust, capturing the mood of a turbulent era (roughly from 1963-68) from the perspective of Doug (John Magaro), a suburban Garden State teen.
His father Pat (James Gandolfini of Killing Them Softly) has his own auto shop as his housewife mom and narrating (to help define a variation on the rags-to-riches/coming-of-age scenario) young sister (Meg Guzulescu) see the long-coiffed Doug home from college as a dropout. It infuriates his dad that Doug is more involved with a local band, pals also drawn to the British invasion (especially 'The Rolling Stones') like lead singer/guitarist, Gene, an aggressive Jack Huston, and the more well-off Wells (Will Brill).
One of the spontaneous, truly memorable points of the film has Gene goofing it up enough so that Doug can take over for full effect on a cover of "Time Is On My Side." The edgy if unpolished production still beautifies an affluent other side of the tracks love interest, an underutilized Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows). Complications also ensue when a sister gets into the excesses of the counterculture movement.
To be certain, some of the more meaningful scenes of this well-intended nostalgia piece but lacking the emotional resonance and narrative continuity of films like Nowhere Boy and more, distinctively, Almost Famous, include Magaro and Gandolfini, embodying the sternly traditional dad who can enjoy his ice cream while watching his favorite TV programs.
In its way of channeling the experience of growing pains and its highs, Chase can't quite make Not Fade Away taken from a Stones song which Buddy Holly earlier recorded as moving and sincere as the recent The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Even with some decent big-screen (Touch of Evil and Blow-Up) and small-screen (The Twilight Zone) which the band is named after.