Directed by Cameron Crowe
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's good to be Cameron Crowe. He has been nominated for Academy Awards, written best-selling books, and is married to a legitimate rock star (Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson). As a teenager, he got to write for music magazines, including Rolling Stone, and follow rock bands on tour in the early 1970s. Now, he has directed his fourth film (and written his sixth screenplay), this time basing it on his experiences as a teenage rock journalist.
William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is the fictionalized version of Crowe: a 15-year-old high school senior who already has years of experience in journalism. He is hired by Rolling Stone to follow Stillwater, a rock band endlessly on the verge of superstardom, as they tour in 1973.
On the road, he gets close with the band, and continually takes notes and makes tape recordings of what goes on. He hangs out with the groupies, as well, but they call themselves "Band Aids", since they care more about the music than getting laid by a rock star. William falls for one who calls herself Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), but she shares a bed with lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup).
There are many other characters, including William's paranoid, over-protective mother (Frances McDormand), and his mentor, Creem Magazine publisher Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman). All are portrayed vividly in this wonderful comic adventure. This is the story that Crowe has been waiting for over 25 years to tell, and his enthusiasm for the period and his passion for the music are evident.
Fugit is a newcomer to the silver screen, and he has proven to be an invaluable find. He hits every right note in portraying a nerdy kid who desperately wants to appear cool and adult in front of his heroes. However, this film is really a showcase for Hudson, who seems almost luminous, and will no doubt be quite famous after this film hits wide release. The only weakness in this cast, oddly enough, is Jason Lee. While brilliant in the films of Kevin Smith, he seems desperately out of place as a rock singer, unlike Crudup, who is entirely believable.
That's a minor flaw in the film, but that's not what keeps it from four stars. While the entire film was very good, I never had that sense of transcendent excellence, like I do every time I see Say Anything.... That first film remains his best, but Almost Famous is certainly in the league of Jerry Maguire, his previous and so far most successful film.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Almost Famous (2000)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan