If you’re a baby boomer who fell under the spell of the so-called “British Invasion,” which started with the Beatles’ first appearance on “Ed Sullivan,” you’ll find countless occasions to smile and laugh out loud. You’ll also commiserate with Douglas (John Magaro), who plays drums in a garage band and then becomes its lead singer, drops out of college and expects to make it big. Plenty of vintage clips from TV performances by the Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Kinks, and others, rounds out the other convincing period details. And the sort of generational conflict that is always present, but seemed especially so at that time, is as poignant as it is hilarious. All of the actors do fine jobs, with James Gandolfini excellent as Douglas’ exasperated father, repeatedly telling his long-haired, disco-booted son that he looks like “he just got off the boat” – an insult, according to Chase, that was especially pointed coming from first-generation Americans for whom assimilation was essential.
Extras include deleted scenes and a glorified promo, but best is the 3-part “Basement Tapes.” It contains interviews with Chase, all the actors, a producer, and Steven Van Zandt (musician, songwriter and member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band), who was music supervisor for the film. Chase says that one of his favorite parts of making “The Sopranos” was picking out the music for each show; so he really enjoyed deciding what would constitute “the best” tunes of the ‘60s for the film. The actors who played members of the band had to learn their instruments in four months before rehearsals began. Some were already musically proficient, but others had to start from scratch. Magaro was coached in his drumming by Andy White, an original, pre-Ringo Beatle who played drums on their song “Love Me Do.” Chase claims the film “is in no way biographical,” but then mentions many of the elements that absolutely were. Gandolfini describes the film as being “about a generational shift,” and how “rock and roll changed everything.” And Van Zandt explains how he worked with Chase to deal with the music: “David did the recipe and I did the cooking!”