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Finally, a movie worth the full price of a ticket! Almost Famous is
Cameron Crowe's semi-autobigraphical story of an aspiring rock
journalist who goes on tour with a band in the 1970's. If it sounds
familiar, it's probably because the story is hardly new. There have
been dozens of movies made about the rock and roll lifestyle: the
drugs, the sex, the fights, and all the bumps on the road to success.
So what sets Almost Famous apart? The acting, for one. Frances McDormand was brilliant as William's (newcomer Patrick Fugit) well-meaning but overbearing mother. Fugit, for his part, had a convincing performance as the shy, awkward teenager struggling to be a journalist but at the same time aching to belong. Kate Hudson, in her breakout role as groupie "Penny Lane", gave her character depth beyond what might have been a limiting role. And Billy Crudup, as band Stillwater's charismatic lead guitarist, shines. Jason Lee is always good, and as Stillwater's lead singer, this role is no exception. And I can't review this film without giving a shout-out to the chronically and criminally-underrated Philip Seymour Hoffman, who steals every scene he's in with his portrayal of legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs.
The writing in the film also contributes to its effect. Many of the great lines belong to McDormand but there are plenty of others to go around. In addition, the music of the era can't be beat. Everything from Simon and Garfunkle to Alvin and the Chipmunks shows up at some point in the movie's extensive musical score.
The plot may not be particularly original, but it rings true. I of course am approaching this review as a music fan and someone interested in the industry. Nonetheless, I believe that even people who couldn't care less about rock music will enjoy this movie, since it's not so much about the music as it is about life. A central theme is the conflict of William: Should he remain a detached but lonely outsider so as to be an impartial journalist, or allow himself to make friends with these people and feel like he belongs? Aside from bringing up questions of journalistic ethics, this dilemma mirrors much of what people in all wakes of life deal with daily.
Almost Famous is realistic, funny, touching, and one of those rare movies that makes you feel like you've gained something just for having seen it. It's too bad that they say rock and roll is dead, cause we could sure use more movies like this one!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's a (by now) well-known scene early on in ALMOST FAMOUS when William
Miller is poring through the records his older sister Anita has left behind
for him since she ran off from home. Inside the album cover of The Who's
TOMMY, she leaves William a note, telling him to listen to this with a
candle lit, and he'll be able to see his future. He puts on the record,
"Sparks" comes on, and the look on his face as he listens is the look every
rock fan will recognize.
There's been tons of stuff written about rock-n-roll music, from those who think, like William's mother Elaine, that it's a corrupting influence(or those who go even farther and consider it "the devil's music"), to those who insist the music is meaningless and to take it seriously smacks of pretension, because it's "only music." And then there are people like Cameron Crowe, who recognize rock-n-roll, and the music which came in its wake, is the shared experience of many people starting from the 1950's, in the way maybe that plays and earlier types of music were in centuries before. Sure, there's television and movies as well, but rock music is shorter and more direct. And sure, it can just be fun and a way to cut loose once in a while, but it's also something which can speak to what we love, what we long for, what we're afraid of, what we think, what wounds us inside, and so much more.
Because Crowe is a fan, he's able to capture all of this in his movie. It's not just in the obvious moments, like the people on the tour bus singing along to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," which lifts them out of their black mood, or singer Jeff Bebe leading everybody into singing "On the Cover of Rolling Stone" when he learns he and his fellow bandmates will be on the cover. It's in the wild spirit of people like Sapphire, one of the Band-Aids(read: groupies) who follow the band Stillwater and others as they tour the U.S., or in the more tender spirit of someone like her sister Band-Aid Penny Lane, who believes she and the other Band-Aids serve as a muse to bands like Stillwater, and who soaks in all of her experiences like a sponge. It's also in William, who tries(like Crowe did) to balance reporting with his very obvious love for the music. And it's especially in the line I quoted from at the top, which Sapphire says to Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond late in the movie. To be sure, the road of rock-n-roll isn't all covered in roses. There's outrageous behavior(like how Russell treats Penny, or William losing his virginity to three of the groupies), drugs, excess, and yes, pretension(like when Jeff lectures Penny about the power of rock-n-roll and then adds, "And the chicks are cool, right?" But those who wanted this to be more like THIS IS SPINAL TAP are missing the point. This isn't a movie about the obvious problems and silliness in rock music. It's about what still draws people to it, and though Crowe acknowledges these people's faults, he still loves them for who they are.
Of course, there's a lot more reasons why ALMOST FAMOUS is a great movie besides its love of rock-n-roll. It's well acted across the board(in addition to all the performances mentioned several times, I'd like to highlight Fairuza Balk as Sapphire; not only does she get the best line in the movie(along with Frances McDormand's "Don't take drugs!" and "Rock stars have kidnapped my son") with that line about music(I also like what she and the other groupies yell as they're about to deflower William, "Death to Opie!"), but she also captures the carefree spirit of the time. She may not be important plot wise, but if you took her character out, the movie would be missing something), it's a terrific coming-of-age story, it's a bittersweet love story, the dialogue is great, and it looks terrific. But it's Crowe's obvious love for the music, and for the people who love it, that makes ALMOST FAMOUS the best thing I've seen so far this year.
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
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
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.
On a rating scale of 0 to 100; I gave Almost Famous a score of
One of the most critically acclaimed movie experiences of the year 2000, Almost Famous is the second feature film to come out Cameron Crowe, and he beats his first effort, Jerry Maguire by a mile. Almost Famous is a stunning, thought-provoking film that comes at you directly from the eye of the camera and hits you with a hard bang. It's a movie not only for people who love 70's rock bands, but for all movie-goer's who really love the feeling of coming out of the cinema feeling totally fulfilled.
A 15 year old boy named William Miller (Patrick Fugit) gets an opportunity to travel with a rock band, Stillwater on a 1973 tour. As a younger boy, his sister (Zooey Deschanel) and his widowed mother Elaine (Frances McDormand) had fought about the mother's control over the family and her denial of rock music. The sister leaves home and leaves the young boy her record collection, which immediately seizes his attention. As a teen, he makes record reviews for an underground newspaper. He submits those to Creem magazine writer Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and gets his attention. The two become fast friends and Bangs acts as his mentor as Rolling Stone magazine comes calling. Slipping into an inner group connected with Stillwater, Rolling Stone agrees to bankroll him on a trip with the group. There he meets the "Band Aids", a group of girls that refuse to be called groupies because they are dedicated only to specific bands. "Penny Lane" (Kate Hudson), the Band Aid's leader is enamored with the group leader (Billy Crudup), but befriends the teen. He responds with complete infatuation with her, but he is equally enamored with the charismatic guitarist. While accepted by the band (other members are Jason Lee, John Fedevich and Mark Kozeleck), they nonetheless refer to him as "the enemy - a rock critic".
The film is classically cool and endlessly enjoyable, making it by far one of the top 5 movies of last year. The film boasts absolutely incredible performances, Patrick Fugit is a newcomer and has terrific potential, Frances McDormand is emotionally stunning as an over-protective mother and Billy Crudup, who I underrated at first, gives a performance of believability and power. However, it comes as no surprise that the film's acting star is Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn. Hudson gives a masterful performance as Penny Lane, she pulls off all Lane's facial expressions effortlessly brilliantly, and God knows she is one of the most stunning young performers of her current time, and she gives one of the most memorably exciting performances of 2000. Cameron Crowe gets a big pat on the back too for arranging the movie delicately and with absolute dedication.
Cameron Crowe's instant classic is a hard one to beat, and is surely the closest thing we have to a perfect `rock movie' these days. Absolutely unmissable.
There was a time in the US rock circuit before music videos and online
marketing. That was the time when several little-known bands toured all
over the country... accompanied mostly by drugs and groupies.
Writer-director Cameron Crowe takes us to that infamous scene of sex,
drugs and rock n' roll in the 1970's with this semi-autobiographical
work, which is not only equipped with his brilliant direction and
screenplay, but also by decent performances by some relatively
Here the introduction of a not-too-famous band, an imaginary one called Stillwater, was important. In that sense, Stillwater is a perfect work by Crowe... with a volatile relationship between the vocalist and the guitarist, with a noncompetent manager and everything that comes with. There were also the groupies, who became a matter of substance in Crowe's point of view. But the most extraordinary thing that Crowe did is the image of himself as a 15-year-old writing prodigy, rock journalist William Miller. The viewers watch the movie through Miller's eyes. The character is extremely well-designed and reserved by Crowe. Miller's the one who becomes able to attach all the parts into a complete movie alone.
Billy Crudup was probably the best among the actors as guitarist Russell Hammond. It's true his role was not a tough one, but he's the one who made it look so easy. Young Kate Hudson, as Penny Lane, is perfect and very adorable. She showed her potentials in this movie which seemed even better than her mother, Goldie Hawn. All she needs are decent roles in future. The other actors, namely Jason Lee as vocalist Jeff, Frances McDormand as Williams's over-protective mother and the other band-aids (with Oscar-winner Anna Paquin) performed also quite well. And newcomer Patrick Fugit, as Miller himself, is really brilliant. Gaining more screen time than anyone else, it was a tough test for Fugit and it is all praises for him.
The soundtrack was very good with some fine original songs. There may be some minor flaws in the movie, like some unnecessary sequences, but all over this is a quite masterful work... a feast for the mind and soul, both for a hard rock n' roll fan and for casual viewers.
As I exited the movie theater after viewing Cameron Crows latest adventure,
I was struggling with what to say to my date. As I didnt want to just sit
there and say nothing, I was forced to due to so many feelings and thoughts
about Almost Famous. Luckily, she felt the same way and so for a few
we just sat there, staring off into the screen, wishing, wanting, and
feeling for that movie.
It was so nicely done. From the acting, brilliantly handled, to the
directing, never camrons problem, down to the sets, costumes, audio, and
other wonderfully placed visuals. Not only was the movie well thought out,
but it became one of those rare films in which everyone, boy girl, man
woman, could feel for at least one person, part, event.
I would reccomend anyone I know to see this movie. It was a chance to
take yourself away from your own problems and let you watch someone elses
moving you all the way through.
"Almost famous" is so great that I don't know where to begin. It means
so much to me; personally, cinematographically, visually
It means so
much when it comes to acting and wonderful performances, when it comes
to fantastic original screenplays that come from a person's mind
without being taken from anything we already know.
This was probably one of the first movies to ever blow me away. When I was getting and idea of what cinema meant and which where the good films; this one left me impressed for more than a week. The same occurred later with "Traffic", "The Truman Show", "Big Fish" and others. It was with this film that I understood that to like a movie it has to mean something to you; besides meaning something for the ones who did it or the ones involved in it.
It meant something for me mainly because of the music. It was during the main credits written by hand in a paper that I felt something, but then, when William's (Patrick Fugit) sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) leaves the house to become a stewardess, and tells him: "Look under your bed; it will set you free"; I was introduced to a new world.
William's mother Elaine (an excellent Frances McDormand) raised him and her sister forbidding them to use bad words, making them go to school, making them religious, but most importantly not letting them listen to rock music. This all changes when William plays The Who's "Tommy" a the light of a candle. Some years later he is writing rock articles and he knows enough to talk with the best music critic in the United States: Lester Bangs (a brilliant and Oscar-caliber supporting performance by the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman).
They talk for a while and the critic says: "Well, I've got to go; I can't spend my whole day talking to my fans". But then, with a lot of intelligence, a camera shoots a restaurant, and they are both still talking. Bangs gives the kid an assignment: to write about Deep Purple. The kid goes to the concert in his home town and tries to enter backstage saying he's a reporter of "Creem".
His multiple attempts fail and he is called by some girls who are laughing constantly. These are the Band Aids, and that is the moment in the film during which I fell in love with Kate Hudson. She plays Penny Lane (although that's not her real name), the girl who said women should be with musicians just for the love of the music, not sex or free rides.
She plays her as an enigmatic and mysterious person who actually is lost and doesn't know or have another place to be in. And I'm talking, personally, about one of the best performances I've witnessed in my whole life. This personal list of best performances is short, and Hudson's Penny Lane is in it, and she deserved an Oscar for it; and many will agree.
Because of how life goes, William stays alone outside Until Stillwater arrives, the kid uses his musical knowledge and he is inside backstage before he knows it. Then, before we know, he forgets about Deep Purple, he is touring with Stillwater and writing an article for Rolling Stone magazine that could be considered for the cover; and William is only 15 years old.
During the tour I felt what they called the "buzz". It was very inspiring to watch the band, each of its members, all the time with a guitar in their hands. Sometimes they were playing together; sometimes each of them was doing his own things. There were pianos and keyboards in each room they stepped foot in; there were good and bad live moments, just as good offstage moments and horrible fights; probably mended with just singing "Tiny Dancer".
Music is the main factor, as this band travels through the country. All of the members of the band we get to identify, but the one that obligatorily highlights is the guitarist Russell Hammond, played superbly by Billy Crudup. The lead singer is also important and he is played by a long-haired Jason Lee, with the guts of a rock persona.
The regretful moments we can't be without...Like Russell's party in Topeka and his last lines if he would die: "I'm on drugs"; or the plain about to crash and confessions like: "I'm gay". This was all perfectly crafted by the hand of Cameron Crowe's peaceful camera and the fantastic screenplay he wrote going back in time to his own similar experience. The man got the best from Tom Cruise, that's already a lot: and "Almost Famous" is his legacy; a gem and one of the best films I've seen in my life.
There are two things that make this film one of the best made in the last few years- characters and music. I am personally not a big fan of 70s music, but it is used very well in this film, most of my favourite scenes are made all the more memorable by the music, which includes America (Simon & Garfunkel), Tiny Dancer, Mona Lisa's and Mad Hatters (both Elton John), River (Joni Mitchell) Paranoid (Black Sabbath) and Feel Flows (The Beach Boys) Most of the actors and actresses in this film give the performance of their lives, Frances McDormand being especially comical as William's mother, and many of the best moments are all hers. William himself has an endearing quality about him to the audience, and I'm surprised I haven't seen Patrick Fugit in any other films since this one. A great film, and the Directors Cut DVD is well worth the money, especially for those of you (like me) who had previously only watched the UK version.
William has an overprotective mother, and his sister has already been
driven away by her refusal to accept her children's ambitions and
interests. William finds solace in his sister's music collection and
begins to dream of a life as a rock journalist. At 15 William manages
to land a assignment with Rolling Stone Magazine to interview an up and
coming band called Stillwater, and he quickly finds himself immersed in
the life his mother so desperately wanted to protect him from.
And so the story begins, as William tours with the band, we are taken on a journey of mistrust, discovery, deceit and disappointment; interlaced with the hard truths about the bands lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, sex and music.
Almost Famous pulls no punches, and is a deep insight into the dream that became an ambition, that became a harsh reality.
Packed with top class performances all round and great music score Almost Famous delivers, and delivers with attitude and realism that is rarely captured on film.
A must see for Fans of the genre, but there's certainly enough here for everyone.
This film may have just one flaw- it aims too high. But that doesn't matter in this world. Here, we see the autobiographical tale of Cameron Crowe (writer/director and co-producer of this film) in his days as a young writer for Rolling Stone (one story I think) as seen by William Miller. He follows a rock band called Stillwater (much to mom's dismay played well by Frances McDormand) on a Almost Famous tour with rockers, groupies and bandaids. Real sweetness comes when the worlds of Miller and the band combine and dramedy kicks in. Quite the Crowe picture, one of his best ones, that takes a look at the days of rock when it was still cool to do drugs, have sex and be cool singing Elton John in a bus (that scene was the highlight). Band members include Billy Crudup, Jason Lee and others including Fairuza Balk, Anna Paquin, and in a exceptional performance, the free spirited Penny Lane played by Kate Hudson. This film is definately in my top 25 list of the year. A-
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