67 – Almost Famous

Almost Famous is about the travails of a 15-year-old reporter for Rolling Stone magazine during the 1970’s. Based loosely on the early life of director Cameron Crowe (who also brought us Jerry Maguire and Fast Times at Ridgemont High), the story follows young William Miller (who claims at times to be 18) as he tags along with second-level, up-and-coming rock band called Stillwater. Stillwater has it all: a dynamic, egotistical lead singer, a mysterious, laid-back lead guitarist, groupies, and teen angst.

William’s (Patrick Fugit) dream is to become a rock journalist. Now mind you, this is during a time when such things hardly existed. Even Rolling Stone was still in its infancy. He gets his break when a renowned writer with Creem Magazine (played by the inimitable Philip Seymour Hoffman) assigns him to write a story on Black Sabbath. But of course William can’t get into the backstage area to conduct his interview – he’s 15 and looks about 12. Also hanging around outside, trying to get in, are some very young groupies – ahem, friends of the band – who call themselves Band Aids; their exuberant leader is Penny Lane (Oscar-nominated Kate Hudson).

Through quick wits and a sharp mind, William gains access to the band. He doesn’t interview anyone from Black Sabbath, but gets to talk to – and eventually befriend – the opening act, Stillwater. And thus William’s odyssey begins; his writings catch the eye of an editor at Rolling Stone, and William is assigned the task of doing a full article on Stillwater. Naturally, the band likes him – he’s so wide-eyed and innocent, after all, and not as sharklike as many other music journalists – and they take him along. William immediately breaks the first rule of rock journalism – don’t be friends with the band.

The story is one long coming-of-age-tale for William. His eyes are open, but so is his mind. He is not just some dumb kid who lucks into the spoils of rockdom – he comes off as a serious, but not too serious, kid with a crackerjack brain and unyielding, newfound emotions.

It’s hard to say who comes off best in this movie. Is it Hudson, who manages to play vampish, slutty, sincere, honest, and mysterious all at once, and convincingly? Is it Frances McDormand, also Oscar-nominated, who’s a tower of strength as William’s doting mom? How about Crowe’s Oscar-winning script? There’s nary a hole in it, and it’s so rich with detail and life of
seventies culture that if you had been there before, you were there again, and if you weren’t there then, you’re there now. But it’s not soaked with so much detail that it’s a story unto itself – too many movies are based on atmosphere. This one has the atmosphere, but it acts as a background, not as a character.

The movie is charming, bittersweet, delicious, and absolutely delightful. Great fun all the way, and some great music, too!

Almost Famous: 8


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