Cameron Crowe, known for his nostalgic and insightful portrayals of teen culture throughout the ages, hit a home run with Almost Famous, undoubtedly one of the best movies about rock and roll and ‘coming-of-age’ in recent years. The fact that the film is based on Crowe’s own experiences as the youngest writer for the infamous Rolling Stone magazine, and his various adventures with some of the greatest rock bands of the seventies, ensures that it won’t just be another Dazed and Confused, but an ernest and realistic portrayal of the rock and roll lifestyle in all its wonders and grimy philosophical meanderings. The various details and comments that run throughout Almost Famous will delight keen fans of rock music, but even the great Roger Ebert stated that he was very nearly hugging himself with joy while watching. Make of that what you will.
Stillwater, rising stars in an era of hard rock where most had already risen and descended, bring the young William Miller backstage, who’s looking for an interview with Black Sabbath. There he meets Penny Lane, a so-called ”band-aide”, who goes on to be William’s mentor in the lifestyle of rock and roll, while the legendary critic Lester Bangs back home trains him in the art of music criticism, and advises him never to become ‘friends’ with members of a rock band. Young William is caught between two conflicting positions: The smart and intellectual condition of the lonely, sarcastic journalist, buried in a pile of books and LPs, seen as the enemy of the musicians, or the rock ‘n’ roller, living life to its silly fullest but missing the cerebral stimulation that sitting alone at a typewriter can bring. Throughout this journey, you can sense that everyone is coming of age, the groupies, the band members, and of course, William Miller.
Kate Hudson’s performance as Penny Lane is so brilliant and subtle; you can sense that Penny truly revels in the moral dodginess of what she’s doing at age (supposedly) 16, but seems to develop and mature over the course of the 158 minutes of this cut, the 36 extra minutes of the director’s cut (bootleg cut) being mostly devoted to further fleshing out her character. This film is so touching and funny, with neither overwhelming the other, but is also such an acute picture of 1973, the beginning of the end for many ‘true’ rock aficionados who were finding themselves dissatisfied at the thought of sales and merchandise overcoming the idea of a ‘youth cultural revolution through music’ that bands like The Stooges, MC5, and The Who brought about. Also, next time you find yourself gazing up at the ceiling in wonder of the glory of rock ‘n’ roll, think: There were the rock stars and musicians who made the art, and then there were the critics who, with their razor-sharp awareness of pop culture, deemed it as worthy of critical evaluation as Don Quixote or War and Peace. Even if that means over-evaluation.
Best Line: ”Jim Morrison? He’s a drunken buffoon, posing as a poet!”
Goof: Non-existent. Oh, wait. Joni Mitchell’s Blue wasn’t released until 1971, and William’s younger character finds it in 1969.
Heck, 10 Tiny Dancers out of 10
”Gimme The Guess Who! They got the courage to be drunken buffoons!”