Title – Almost Famous (2000)
Director – Cameron Crowe (Aloha)
Cast – Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Zooey Deschanel, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Noah Taylor, Anna Paquin
Plot – Loner high school student and music lover William Miller (Fugit) gets the chance of a lifetime to write a Rolling Stones article about rising American band Stillwater. As he joins them on a cross-country tour, he begins to fall head over heels for band hanger-on Penny Lane (Hudson).
“I don’t think anyone can really explain rock ‘n’ roll”
Review by Eddie on 26/03/2020
Disclaimer – This review is based on the extended “directors” cut of the film.
Inspired by his own early life as a Rolling Stones reporter and showcasing his great knowledge and love of the music industry, Almost Famous is divisive director Cameron Crowe’s most personal film and arguably his most well-liked (in a tight race with audience favourite Jerry Maguire), in what acts as a well-filmed if self-indulgent and slightly over the top experience when watched in today’s climate.
Able too be made after the huge and surprising success of Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous was a commercial dud when first released in 2000, despite it being well-liked by critics and scoring all kinds of awards nominations, as Crowe shines a light on the 1970’s American music scene where the likes of Black Sabbath, The Beach Boys and Cat Stevens ruled the roost.
Creating a fabricated band known as Stillwater, that features some great turns from Jason Lee as hard too like lead singer Jeff Bebe and Billy Crudup (as good as his ever been) as deep-thinking guitarist Russell Hammond, Almost Famous is literally like a dreamscape road trip and coming of age movie that sees Patrick Fugit’s teenage music lover and writer William Miller fall head over heels for Kate Hudson’s band follower and “band-aid” hanger on Penny Lane, while learning the ins and outs of Stillwater as he follows them around for a magazine piece.
The care of recreating the era and the joys of getting to listen to a rollicking soundtrack ensure that Crowe is able to bring out all the nostalgic feels he can muster of a time long gone by, with those from the time period likely to find great joy and emotion in a tale that will be relatable to many in various forms.
Watching the extended version of this well-regarded tale however makes you realise the film harbors more than it’s fair share of filler amongst all the great individual scenes, like Hammond’s impromptu party attendance or group singalongs of Elton John, as Crowe and his characters often get lost in a procession of scenes that don’t add much to the core story and also increase the over the top nature and unbelievable aspects of character decisions and hard to swallow interactions.
As is the case with Crowe films, they always fall slightly more too over the top and fake rather than the everyday and believable, even his most iconic moments like John Cusack holding up a boom box or Tom Cruise proclaiming to show him the money are great but very “Hollywood” and Almost Famous is filled with such moments, that when watched in an extended fashion begin to wear on the viewer as the best moments are more character focused and far less sugar coated.
Final Say –
Filled with some great characters and performances, Almost Famous is a great trip down memory lane for music lovers and those that participated in the 70’s but 20 year’s on from its initial release, Crowe’s film shows its flaws more clearly, especially when watched in its extended format.
3 badly wired microphones out of 5