Almost Famous Reviews
The early 1970s. William Miller is 15-years old and an aspiring rock journalist. He gets a job writing for Rolling Stone magazine. His first assignment: tour with the band Stillwater and write about the experience. Miller will get to see what goes on behind the scenes in a famous band, including the moments when things fall apart. Moreover, for him it will be a period of new experiences and finding himself.
Wonderfully warm and engaging drama from writer-director Cameron Crowe. The movie is essentially a biography of Crowe's teenage years, with a few names and bands changed, and you can feel the personal investment he has in the movie.
Quite nostalgic too, as you think about how great it was as a teenager, discovering and experiencing new things.
Has the other Cameron Crowe hallmark: a fantastic soundtrack (well, he was a rock journalist, remember...). Stillwater may be a fictitious band but the music is genuine.
Cameron Crowe won the 2001 Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his efforts.
(Full review TBD)
All of these elements create a very warm film that is surprisingly human in its approach. The sound track is also very strong and paired well with each scene. One scene was particularly memorable: a simple sing-a-long on a bus against the back drop of a classic song. Most people have at least one strong memory of this simple true Americana pleasure from their childhood, and this scene taps into that emotion.
This was, in my humble opinion, Cameron Crowe's last really strong movie after a number of hits (including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything and Singles). These movies all share a common bond in that they were crafted with care, attention and a sharp eye for detail creating engrossing time capsules of these time periods (or places) and the social relationships of the characters.
My small critique of this film, and most of Crowe's work, is that he can be heavy handed with the sitcom one-liners. While some of these lines pay off really well, others are a bit jarring.
Rolling Stone Magazine hires young music fan to write about up-and-coming rock band as he travels with them on their concert tour. His trip into their world is a revelation to him (and us): not scummy or unpleasant, instead a warm journey with a lot of dynamic humor. Writer-director Cameron Crowe drowns his creative story with colorful, three-dimensional characters (the same way he did JERRY MAGUIRE) and gives them plenty of space to develop. The entire movie is constantly original, surprisingly, and as pure moviemaking, it's superb; extremely entertaining. This irresistible film also made a super-star out of Kate Hudson. A must-watch.
The first storyline of the movie introduces the inception of William's love of music and a talent of writing. William's older sister, Anita, rebels against their overbearing, sheltered mother, leaving William her record player and her prized collection of rock n' roll albums before moving out of the house and dropping out of school. William falls in love with the music and with rock n' roll despite his mother's disapproval. The main purpose of the movie begins when William Miller, a fifteen-year-old child prodigy receives a phone call from the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone magazine, who has read William's impressive writing and employs him to write a story about an up-and-coming band, Stillwater. Wong informs William that if his story were to include an interview with Russell Hammond, it would most likely be published by Rolling Stone magazine. William seeks the advice of rock and roll writer Lester Bangs when he realizes his age and lack of life experience leave him at a disadvantage. Lester Bang paints an ugly picture of the ups and downs of embarking a tour with a rock band where he will experience first-hand the roller coaster ride of sex, drugs and rock and roll associated with rock bands of the 1970's.
The film moves forward to the second storyline where William meets Penny Lane and her friends, the band aides as he attempts to enter the back stage of a Led Zepplin concert. Penny Lane becomes William's muse and the object of his affection when she introduces him to the world of live rock n' roll, Stillwater, and most importantly, Russell Hammond. As this storyline progresses, William and Penny form a deep bond as he witnesses the intimate, twisted relationship between Penny Lane and Russell Hammond, and they both experience pain caused by Russell Hammond's self-indulgent personality, resulting in Penny Lane attempting suicide and William becoming her savior. Penny Lane and the band aides become William's protectors and teachers of life as they introduce him to sex, drugs and booze.
The third storyline of the movie reveals the complicated relationship between William and his mother, as well as the contemptuous and stormy relationship between William's very traditional mother and his free will sister, Anita. William's mother, who is a college professor, is conflicted by the tug of war of her dreams for William (college at fifteen), or his dreams of becoming a rock n' roll writer. William takes both his love for music and talent of writing, and uses it to convince his mother to allow him to go on tour with Stillwater while missing the last two months of high school.
The final storyline of the movie tells of William's pursuit of a one-on-one interview with Russell Hammond, and the relationship that results between the two of them. This storyline also tells of physical and mental changes in William while on tour. William starts to physically age as the exhaustion and strain of being on tour takes its toll. Each tour location reveals a further decline in William physically and mentally. When the tour began, William was excited and was willing to do whatever it took to get the story. Near the end of his extended stay on tour, William is unwilling to put up with Russell's excessive partying, mood swings, and personal dramas. William's hero worship turns into disappointment and frustration when Russell refuses to corroborate the facts of William's story. Ultimately both characters develop a level of respect and acceptance of one another when Russell Hammond finally agrees to do a one-on-one interview with William in his childhood bedroom when the tour finally ends.
Cameron Crowe's portrayal of his early life can be considered coming of age film. As many review's claim, Almost Famous is not a movie about music. Almost Famous is a movie that portrays the hard reality of rock n' roll. It's a story of stardom, idolism, romance, sex, drugs, betrayal, joy, friendship and the evils of money and fame. Almost Famous is the most real, yet fictional portrayal of the music industry. It's message to me is clear: Doing what you love may lead to disappointment, but it's worth it if it's your passion.