Not Fade Away

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Not Fade Away Movie Poster Image
'60s-set coming-of-age tale has some edgy content.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 117 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Follow your dreams and be who you are, and don't expect success to come to you without putting in the hours.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Douglas is driven and works hard, and Grace, though a work-in-progress, ends up valuing herself and articulating her feelings and beliefs about being a young woman in the 1960s.


A motorcycle accident results in one of the lead characters being bloodied and injured. A drug-addicted young woman is hauled away to rehab in a combative fashion. A couple has loud fights; in one of them, her boyfriend degrades her based on her sexual history and calls her names. A father and son tussle verbally and teeter on the edge of a physical fight. Two friends have a full-on fist fight, with one nearly choking another.


A couple is shown seemingly naked or nearly naked on a couch, having sex. (No genitals are shown.) A man gropes a woman while making out. Men discuss what they did with the same woman -- they mention specific sex acts.


Pretty much every bad word, including "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "bitch," "a--hole," and more. Also plenty of racist and homophobic terms from the time period, including "f----t" and the "N" word.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking (beer, hard liquor) and pot use (by teens), plus mentions of dropping acid. It's not particularly glamorized; it's just there. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Not Fade Away is an evocative but slow-moving coming-of-age movie from David Chase (creator of The Sopranos) about a young man growing up in the 1960s who tries to find himself through music. The soundtrack is great, and the story may appeal to older teens. Expect some swearing (including "f--k" and more), plus loads of period-accurate smoking (both cigarettes and pot) and drinking at parties -- all by teens. There's also a brief, intense scene depicting a couple having sex, though there's no complete nudity. 

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What's the story?

It's the 1960s, and Douglas (John Magaro), a high school senior on the verge of graduating, instead decides to join a cover band as its drummer -- a "why not?" decision that turns into an avocation. He catches the eye of Grace (Bella Heathcote), a gorgeous, Vassar-bound classmate with a penchant for making out with everyone else but him and sharing her keen observations about the band -- including that he Douglas is much better at singing than the charismatic lead, Eugene (Jack Huston). Set against an emergent music scene, NOT FADE AWAY traces Douglas' circuitous journey, charting the detours he takes when he thinks he's on the way to rock-star-hood.

Is it any good?

First things first: The Not Fade Away soundtrack is as good as it gets, with the Rolling Stones, Leadbelly, and James Brown (and plenty others) permeating through the movie. In fact, it's the best thing about the movie.

David Chase (of The Sopranos fame) clearly made this film with love, perfectly evoking a very specific slice of history -- and the ennui and hope and idealism of young adulthood. Nonetheless, it ambles at a maddeningly slow pace, never quite finding the urgency to pull an audience through its hefty run time. The music's fun to listen to, but we need more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Not Fade Away depicts teen life in the 1960s. Is it relatable? Do the characters face similar issues to what teens deal with today?

  • Why does Douglas seem hostile to his parents (and vice versa)? Does this generational chasm still exist today, or was it played up for cinematic effect?

  • How does Not Fade Away compare to other coming-of-age films? How does it depict drinking and smoking? Does it glamorize them?

  • What does music mean to Douglas, and how does the changing musical landscape reflect the times?

Movie details

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