William Miller is a 15-year-old kid hired by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with and write about Stillwater, an up and coming rock band. This wonderfully witty coming-of-age film follows William as he falls face first to confront life, love, and lingo. Written by
Heart-wrenching, honest, clever; everything I like in a film
I've seen a few coming-of-age films, and a few prodigy-cum-genius type films, and of course more than my share of romantic comedy stuff. This film skirts between the lines of all those possibilities and somehow manages to find its way to the viewer intact, deftly and with a whole lot of old-fashioned charisma.
The acting was honest, true to how people behave without getting schmaltzy or over-dramatic. Cameron Crowe gets these actors to all project a belief in themselves and bring that across in a way that we care about what happens to them. I particularly liked the rendition of William Miller by Patrick Fugit, who steals the show as the precocious rock-n-roll journalist. He evokes visions of a young Matthew Broderick or a wide-eyed Michael J. Fox without ever getting corraled into being the "cute but troubled young kid".
Frances McDormand is amazing and well-cast as Elaine the Mom, someone so wrapped up in creating a safe, healthy environment she drives both her children far away from home.
Billy Crudup & Kate Hudson create the tension filled romance that drives the story along; both did a great job & were adroitly evocative of those fast times in the rock & roll fantasyland of the 70's. Billy, as Russell Hammond, teeters on the edge of fame, not wanting to leave his long-suffering bandmates behind but being courted as the band's star by the record company, is palpably torn. He carries William through the whirlwind of emotions and music along with him, showing him a world that is desperate and lonely, even with the whole world seemingly vying for his attention. His casting is also very clever, seeing as how Billy Crudup also sits on the brink of his own stardom & acclaim in real life.
Lester Bangs is William's 'guru', played to perfection by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. A walking oxymoron, he exudes a callous arrogance and at the same time expresses genuine affection for the up-and-comer, sometimes giving William the exact advice he needs to get him through the toughest moments as a rock critic & dealing with the love/hate relationships they seem to engender with everyone in their world of music.
I can't say enough about the awesome casting job, as well as the very detailed set design, costuming & realism to the times. Period pieces are usually difficult to do well; Mr. Crowe did this one genuine and good.
A truly great film, one that I'd heartily recommend to all but the most jaded rock critics.
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