A Tribute to James Gandolfini: Not Fade Away

(USA, 2012, 112 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
CAST John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill, Dominique McElligot, James Gandolfini, Bella Heathcote

The unexpected and ridiculously premature death of actor James Gandolfini last week (June 19) shocked fans the world over. As Tony Soprano the actor made an indelible mark on the psyche of his generation, finding pathos, complexity, warmth, humour, confusion and even compassion in the middle-aged mob boss. Created by David Chase, the show ran from 1999 to 2007, made Gandolfini a household name and set a new benchmark for the standard of TV drama.

Gandolfini was almost 40 years old when success came - and he had already established himself as a character actor in more than a dozen movies, including True Romance, Get Shorty and Crimson Tide. The roles only got bigger and better after The Sopranos, but Gandolfini remained the essence of a character actor, bringing his skill and personality but no vanity or ego to whatever project appealed to him.

Our tribute consists of two recent feature films, both released at the tail end of last year, neither of which found the audience they deserved. The first feature written and directed by Sopranos creator David Chase, Not Fade Away is an overtly autobiographical piece about a young man (newcomer John Magaro) trying to make it in rock n roll in the 1960s. Gandolfini has a relatively small yet crucial role, as the young man’s conservative father, dismayed by his boy’s directionless. It’s a part that could have been clichéd, but Gandolfini invests his scenes with such expert comic timing and emotion, he transcends any such traps. Reminiscent of Barry Levinson’s Diner, Not Fade Away is a personal movie in the best sense, true and honest and lived in, and Gandolfini has much to do with that.

"A warm, funny, poignant scrapbook." Hollywood Reporter

"A gritty, graceful salute to rock and roll." Rolling Stone