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The film has a normal edition and a directors cut edition, this review is for the normal edition.
The running time is approx 118 minutes, and it has a 15 certificate.
Cast members include Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin and a then reasonably unknown Zooey Deschanel.
The film was directed, and written by Cameron Crowe.
The film is semi-autobiographical as Cameron Crowe was once a teenage writer for Rolling Stone Magazine.
Almost Famous won many awards and received even more nominations, including an Oscar for Best Screenplay. It also won a Grammy for its soundtrack.
The film is set in the music industry of 1973. Following the life of teenager William and his quest to become a music journalist. He somehow manages to get himself an all expenses paid assignment to tour with an up and coming band called Stillwater. The band have issues, especially between lead guitarist Russell (Crudup) and singer Jeff (Lee). When William first meets the band he also meets "band aid" a fancy name for a groupie Penny Lane (Hudson), with her help William soon becomes a part of the groups circle of friends.
Throughout his time with the band William's rather overprotective mother repeatedly tries to get him to come home. As the band begin to trust him, William sees everything that goes on behind the scences, some good and some pretty bad. He witnesses the relationships between the band members and the band aids, especially between Penny Lane and married guitarist Russell, including their mistreatment. All the bands issues come to a head when they all think they are about to die on a plane and everything comes out. There are some utter betrayals and hard lessons learned by all towards the end. With all the drama will William ever get his articiles published?
I love this film. It is one of my favourite films, and I have watched it quite a few times now. Its such a good dramatic film, but there are also some laughs in there along the way. Including the rather crazy character of William's mother, I hope I never end up like that, and some of the things the band mates annouce on the plane. I liked how the film began, with a little insight as to how William gets into music in the first place. I felt it was an accurate portrayal of the shallowness and selfishness of some rock stars, both of the time and present day. It really makes you look differently at the band aids (groupies), you almost feel sorry for them. They are so in love and obsessed with the rock stars and the lives they lead, that they can't see that they mean nothing more to them than a bet in a poker game. There are so many girls and guys that still live with this illusion. However despite this there are times when the rock stars come through for each other and William and so us they are human after all. The film also explores the crazy drug taken ways of the 70s. Its almost as if you are being transported into the lives of the rock stars. Felt the acting was strong throughout the cast, and although William's story is quite unlikely to happen in the real world, especially nowadays, it appears believable. There are also many relationships that were intresting to watch throughout the film, especially between William and his mother, and although we don't see too much of them the relationship between William's sister and their mother, and the way they change from beginning to end. However I think the most intresting character to watch is Penny Lane and how she changes the relationship she not only has with the others but with herself.
Overall I think this is a fantastic film, which explores lots of issues, yet is still intresting and an enjoyable watch. It has some good music throughout and if you love films and music I think its a must see.
The dvd edition that I own comes with a whole load of special features including,
HBO Making of Featurette
Rolling Stones Articles;Original Text by Cameron Crowe
Stillwater's "Fever Dog" music video
Production Notes and a trailer.
The film also has English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles available.
William Miller is a precocious 15 year old with a gift for writing, hired by the Rolling Stone to tour with the up and coming folk rock band 'Stillwater' this is a coming of age story written and directed by Cameron Crowe based on his real life experiences as a young journalist.
As the story develops so does William, however whilst he learns and develops from his journey he sees much more of the band than they would really like him to, leaving him in a true moral dilemma, does he write about the band as his friends, selling their story to maintain their friendship, or does he tell the real story which would aid his career and yet potentially damage his new friends?
I rented this from Lovefilm as I wanted to get back to a few of the 90's indie films I'd always wanted to see and never got round to, I also wanted to prove to myself that Vanilla Sky was the exception rather than rule in terms of Cameron Crowes directorial skills.
I liked this film, I actually came away incredibly impressed by Jason Lee's voice and thought the musical numbers played by the band were excellent, to the point that I would even consider buying their albums!! The film is about a boy who wants to be a journalist and tours the country with a bright young band who have hit the big time, he sees all the behind the scenes tiffs, excesses and fights and has to cover for people, whilst also trying to formulate a story for Rolling Stone magazine, his dilemma is whether to tell the truth or gloss it up to sell the band further.
I though the film despite some hard hitting scenes was fairly soft for the most part, the actors did really well and the musical set pieces were good, the story strolls along nicely as the band fight, make up and fall out again, my favourite scene is on a private plane during turbulence when the band let out all of their inner most secrets as they fear dying on the plane, can things ever be the same after such a group conversation?
In reality this is a coming of age film, William falls in love with Penny Lane, who loves Russell Hammond the rugged band guitarist, while Jeff Bebe the lead singer feels jealous that the guitarist has almost as much publicity as he does. The film follows all of these themes and many more in a thoughtful well paced way which is very enjoyable.
I rate this film highly, the seventies settings are realistic and the cast are excellent, a particular stand out scene is when Penny Lane is told she has been sold to a rival band for $50 and a case of beer, watching her heartbreak is awful, she acts the whole scene with her eyes and is exceptional.
The film peaks at a satisfying climax, this is a well made film with the right mix of morals and decadence to show life on the road for a young up and coming rock band, the woman in the film are objectified for the most part, but close to the end I think there is some kind of moral resolution to that and you realise that these groupies who use their bodies to be famous have much more in their heads than it might appear.
If you like the seventies, rock music, intelligent coming of age films or simply any of the actors mentioned below, definitely watch this film, it is a cut above most films of this genre and doesn't spoonfeed you the story, it asks you the viewer to get involved, to care and ultimately to understand that there is hope for us all.
I've decided in my reviews nowadays only to list the cast if I think it will really interest readers, when you look at the cast of this film many of these actors and actresses have gone onto bigger things and all are pretty competent in this film.
Standout performances for me are Frances McDormand as William's mum, a woman who manages to berate a world famous musician over the phone to the point that he has to reflect hard on his life choices. Kate Hudson has the right mix of being fragile and vivacious as the groupie Penny Lane while Billy Crudrup and Jason Lee are excellent as the Mick and Keith-esque Russell and Jeff, two musicians with boundless talent and a real desire for excess, they are like brothers with the love and hate that goes with this. Patrick Fugit is fine as the central character but he does play like a slightly weedy hanger on for the most part, other future stars include Zooey Deschanel, Anna Paquin,. Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman, many were already doing well in their careers but this film did them no harm at all.
Billy Crudup ... Russell Hammond
Frances McDormand ... Elaine Miller
Kate Hudson ... Penny Lane
Jason Lee ... Jeff Bebe
Patrick Fugit ... William Miller
Zooey Deschanel ... Anita Miller
Michael Angarano ... Young William
Anna Paquin ... Polexia Aphrodisia
Fairuza Balk ... Sapphire
Noah Taylor ... Dick Roswell
John Fedevich ... Ed Vallencourt
Mark Kozelek ... Larry Fellows
Philip Seymour Hoffman ...Lester Bangs
Liz Stauber ... Leslie
Jimmy Fallon ... Dennis Hope
This is available for £2.90 on Amazon, when I watched this I watched the Directors cut as it is based on Director Cameron Crowe's own experiences and it was good to do so to really get the context of what he was thinking and feeling in these situations, further commentary is provided by his mother who is a pivotal figure in this film and in his life from the input she offers here.
"Almost Famous" is a 2000 Comedy - Drama film and also semi-autobiographical as the director, Cameron Crowe was a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine as a teenager and some of his life experiences mirror the experiences of the lead character, the movie stars Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Set in 1973, William Miller ( Patrick Fugit ) is a 15 year old aspiring rock journalist, he lives at home with his controlling, yet good natured mother Elaine ( Frances McDormand ) and witnesses his sister Anita ( Zooey Deschanel ) leaving home and passing on her collection of albums to him for inspiration.
William listens to famous rock journalist Lester Bangs ( Phillip Seymour Hoffman ) and after submitting numerous examples of his work, Bangs finally gives William an assignment, to write a review of an upcoming Black Sabbath Concert.
However, William finds himself unable to enter the arena and winds up befriending some groupies, including Penny Lane ( Kate Hudson ) who he takes an instant like to, and who treats him like a younger brother, also William finds himself endearing himself to the opening band "Stillwater" and while the group are wary of a rock journalist, William quickly befriends the band, and in particular their charismatic guitarist Russell Hammond ( Billy Crudup )
And so William finds himself coming of age quickly, all the while struggling with feelings for Penny Lane that may not come to fruition, and also finds himself landing a dream assignment with Rolling Stone !
Almost Famous is a rare movie, its funny and touching all in one and has an endearing quality, much like the intended quality of the lead character, its biggest asset is both the wonderful performances of the main cast, and the excellent soundtrack lifted directly from 70's rock, even though Stillwater are a fictional band ( although Crowe has stated that they were inspired by his real life experiences with the Allman Brothers band ), you truly believe in them as a functional band with the same issues bands of the 70's faced, mixing drugs and ego's, so many bands didn't emerge from the decade intact and a lot of potential was lost.
I think the true genius of this movie is indeed its semi-autobiographical nature, I don't think anyone else except someone who lived this whole experience could have written or directed this, and certainly couldn't have injected the realism into the movie that Crowe managed to do, simply taking from his own experiences and projecting them onto the big screen is genius, this will probably go down as his finest work
Almost famous is definitely recommended for fans of music, its also recommended for fans of movie's, as its one of the finest examples of its genre from the last decade
Almost Famous is one of those films that I put on when the kids aren't home and I want to curl up in front of the TV and snuggle in my PJ's. Released in 2000, it was written and directed by Cameron Crowe and is a semi auto biographical look back on his teenage years as a rock and roll writer.
It's San Diego, 1973 and budding music journalist William Miller is 15 years old. His lucky break comes when critic Lester Bangs gets him to do a story on Black Sabbath. His strict mother isn't keen and insists on dropping him off at the concert. There he meets a group of girls who call themselves band-aids lead by Penny Lane. They introduce William to up and coming band Stillwater who invite him to come on tour with them. His mother is reluctant but when he gets an assignment for Rolling Stone magazine she lets him go off on the road to experience the highs and lows of rock and roll.
William is such an adorable character; he's been thrown into a corrupt world and his innocence is so sweet that you instantly want to protect him. He may love music but I'm not sure he's ready for the big wide world because he seems too naïve.
Penny Lane leads the band aids and it's obvious from the beginning that she has a connection with Russell from Stillwater. The pair just seem to have a past and as the film develops you get to learn more about why Penny is so nice but so reckless at the same time.
The developing relationship between Penny and William is touching. It's pretty obvious she isn't attracted to him in that way but because of his personality you want her to reciprocate his feelings.
I though the film gave just enough information about each if the characters; you knew their background but a certain amount of mystery still surrounded each of them making it a much more interesting journey getting to know them all.
The story isn't that original but it's refreshing to see a different take on the life of bands on the road. There is excess and partying but there is also hurt, pain, love and emotion. Cameron Crowe has created a moving story but at the same time added subtle humour to add lighter moments so that the film never gets too dark or preachy.
As you'd probably expect the music is pretty fantastic; it's not an era I am particularly familiar with but it all seemed to fit in with the story and create the right mood. Sometimes it was in the background and sometimes in the forefront but it was always present, reminding you why William was really there - for the music.
The 1970s is captured perfectly with the costumes, scenery and music. It manages to effortlessly transport you to the time and you become engrossed in the film. The dialogue also seems somewhat dated, adding to the overall authentic feel.
There are some moments that are a bit clichéd like where they all sing Tiny Dancer on the bus and I did find some of the scenes a bit short and choppy which got a bit frustrating but overall the film flows well and never really gets boring.
I think what appeals to most people about this film is the dream of escapism. What teenager wouldn't want to go on tour with a band across America and that's why this is a great film because there is a little bit of William or Penny in all of us, enabling you to relate to what the characters are going through.
I think this is appropriately a 15 certificate film because there are scenes of nudity, drug taking, bad language and adult emotion that would be unsuitable for anyone under that age.
Patrick Fugit was perfect for the role of William; he gave him such a lovable and endearing personality that suited the character making him more believable. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Lester Bangs perfectly, giving him just the right amount of sarcasm and cynicism. Billy Crudup is also fantastic as Stillwater's guitarist; on the surface he appears to be a stereotypical rock start but his personality is much more than that and Crudup captures his realism perfectly.
Penny Lane was portrayed well by Kate Hudson; this was one of her first major roles and she definitely did it justice, winning a Golden Globe for best supporting actress for her efforts. Fairuza Balk played Sapphire, one of the band aids; she brought life onto the screen and gave an enjoyable performance. Other band aids included Anna Paquin as Polexia and Bijou Phillips as Estrella; they were both convincing in their roles but didn't really stand out.
Almost famous is a touching story that has moments of brilliance and sparks of humour. Each time I watch it I remember why I like it, the story is good, the acting great and the music fantastic. This is currently available on Amazon for £2.88 with free delivery. This is a super price for such a gem of a movie.
I can't even remember how I came across Almost Famous - my earliest recollection of it is just having it in my DVD collection. I don't remember where I bought it, I've no idea *why* I bought it, but it was just there. So I can't tell you why I was drawn to watch it, or even when I first watched it, but I must have had it pretty close to it's DVD release date, I imagine.
Anyway, as a teen who, at the time, spent much of his life listening to old records and staring into a candle, I *loved* the film the first time I saw it...and pleasingly, this feeling has stayed with me, though both I and the film have aged.
The other reviews will serve as a plot summation for those that are particularly interested, but for my money it's suffice to say it's a movie about a young lad that goes on tour with a rock band...and it's a good, old fashioned, movie - about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
When I watch the film now, it's obviously no fluke that it worked out so well, the cast is solid - with Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Zooey Deschanel and Kate Hudson all putting in especially good performances.
Almost famous is the kind of movie that makes you think you should be writing tasting notes...it starts off laid back, then there's some good flavours later in the movie...and the after taste...I'm humming tiny dancer, I'm feeling at one with the spirit of the music..I'm thinking about buying some more "rock classics" albums for the car...
The portrayal of the era in the movie just seems *spot on* to me (obviously I'm too young to have experienced it first hand) - I get a feel and sense for how things were - and by the seems of it, that's more or less what the movie was all about - and in that case, it has to be counted as a resounding success.
Through a fantastic soundtrack you're led around the life of a rock band - and their admirers. That said, there's more to the film than just music - it's occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, at other times it's surprisingly moving...and there's a decent lashing of teen-anxt dumped over the whole thing.
The DVD I have has two versions, a theatrical release and an extended, "untitled" version - and both are excellent. It's rare to have additions which don't leave you thinking "yeah, I can see why they left that out", but genuinely, in this case, the two versions both work seamlessly as films in their own right.
Almost famous isn't *quite* a classic in my book...There are times when I feel the direction is a little too fly-on-the-wall and I'd rather have a little more glam, just a bit more ROCK...maybe see more of the gigs...But that said, it's still right up there amongst my favourite movies.
--PLEASE NOTE: THIS REVIEW HAS ALSO BEEN USED ON MY CIAO ACCOUNT (USERNAME "MONSOONBABY88").--
Every so often a film comes along which leaves you feeling touched, warm and happy. A total feel-good film that you do not regret watching. Almost Famous falls under these catagories. The film follows the story of a 15 year old boy who happens to get assigned by Rolling Stone magazine to do a profile on upcoming rock group, Stillwater. Acting older than he actually is, the magazine assigns him, unaware that he is only 15 years old.
The boy in question is William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), a boy who is fiercely protected by his mother, Elaine (Frances McDormand), who is a college professor who believes that rock music has a corrupting influence. Elane bans the owning of rock records in her house, until one day her daughter Anita (Zooey Deschanel), jaded from her mothers tight hold on her and her brother, leaves the home to become an air stewardess. Anita's departure inspired William to follow the band, Stillwater, that he was assigned to by Rolling Stone magazine. William accompanies the band on their tour, where he finds himself caught up in a life of tension, sexs and drugs. Amazingly enough, amongst this, laughter, love and happiness is also found, enticing William to stay for longer than he expected, and to travel further and further away from home. During this time, William observes the tension between lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), and finds himself two mentors. The first is the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs (Philip Seymore Hoffman), (who is actually the only character who has not had his name changed), who dishes out advice to William via phonecalls. The second is the bands chief groupie, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). William finds a kindrid spirit in her, and believes he loves her, yet her troubled underlining soon comes apparent in a rather dark scene involving her attempted suicide. As William continues to observe, Stillwater gets a hit record, more tour dates and more fame, but as much as he is enjoying his time with the band, William misses the comforts of home.
One of the best scenes in the film is a scene involving the band, Penny Lane, and William on the tour bus. Tension between everyone is high, nobody is talking to another, and the whole journey feels awkward. Suddenly, Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" comes on the radio. One by one, they start to sing along to the song, resulting in the whole bus coming together on the chorus. The band, crew, Penny Lane and William are reunited in their love for this one song, showing that music can influence people in a good way. It is an uplifting moment that not only makes you feel extremely happy, but it also makes you want to sing along with them.
Almost Famous is an autobiographical story based on the life of Cameron Crowe, the films writer/director, who was a teenage Rolling Stone writer back in the 1970s. Although the names have changed, this is essentially a true story. Cameron did become close friends with a rock band, and he did lose his virginity to groupies, both events happen in the film. Almost Famous is a mix of emotions, with quite a bittersweet feeling (a good summary of this is the "Tiny Dancer" scene), teenage angst, tension, sadness and nostalgia.
It is hard to believe that we were not actually watching real events. Crowe manages to successfully create a 1970s setting with a band that not only sound excellent, but look the part too, meaning that you will sometimes forget that Stillwater are fictional. You may also find yourself thinking this feels a little Spinal Tap, as in a way, it kind of is. Just without too much of the silliness, and it is much more of a sweet version.
Not only is the film a nostalgic look back at the 1970s rock scene, it is also a film about time. As we progress through the film, we see the band gain more and more recognition, and William grow up. It is essentially a coming of age film. Patrick Fugit plays William as a loveable character. He is not some bratty teenager who tires of his old life, it is evident that he genuinely loves his mother and sister. Through the film we see him turn from a nervous young boy clutching onto his tape recorder and notepad, to a more relaxed, professional looking journalist who has got what it takes to exceed in his field. You'll feel yourself rooting for him throughout. The other actors performances are excellent too. Kate Hudson as Penny Lane manages to effortlessly switch Penny from a kindhearted, laidback young woman to a woman teetering on the edge of depression. It is quite a haunting depiction at times, which leaves you feeling quite attached to her. Jason Lee as the bands lead singer Jeff is there to throw a bit of comedy in, and Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond manages to show a rather bitter rocker with a sympathetic, soft side underneath. Praise goes to Francis MacDormand as William's mother, who despite her controlling nature and strict rules, is a hugely loving and caring mother.
Almost Famous is a brilliant film which will leave you with many feelings. It is a coming of age film, an autobiography, and a 1970s nostalgia trip. It'll leave you feeling sad, happy, shocked, tense, but above all, warm-hearted. The soundtrack is brilliant, and the performances by all the cast are great, especially for newcomer Patrick Fugit as William Miller, who had quite a large part to fill, seeing as he is the main character. Cameron Crowe has managed to accurately retell the true account of his own time writing for Rolling Stone, and he clearly has good memories of it all, due to the films overall great feeling. Watch this film and put a smile on your face.
I bought this Dvd years ago deciding after reading the back of it, then I would like it. It sat all that time in it's case without me looking. Now we are in the age of Sky+ and that, and it took this to be on SKy3 about a month ago for me to eventually watch it. I often don't sit down and watch a dvd all the way through, so at least I was able to watch it and stop, then start up again when I had a free half hour.
This film was directed by Cameron Crow. It is sort of a real life story, as Cameron followed a Rock Band around when he was a teenager. He went on tour with them, then wrote an article for Rolling Stone about them. So perhaps the whole film is based on real life events.
The main character in this is a boy called William Miller. He stays at home with his mum and sister. He seems a quiet enough boy, but seems a bit behind his friends. While in the shower he sort of notices he is a bit behind the other boys, and then asks his mum about this. She eventually tells him that he is 2 years younger than what he thinks he is. She said he skipped a few grades due to him being smart, but that's a good thing, as he can graduate quicker and then perhaps take a gap year before settling down. His mum is a teacher and not into the 70's or anything that goes with that era. His sister is fed up with their controlling mum, and takes off to become a stewardess and enjoy the Rock and Roll lifestyle, much to her mum's disapproval.
Fast forward a few years and William is 15. He's still at school and doing well. His sister left him all her Records, so he has been listening to Rock music and liking it. His passion seems to be writing and he writes for his school Newspaper. He comes across the famous Lester Bangs who is a famous Rock critic and he sets William a challenge to interview Black Sabbath for Cream magazine. This surprisingly doesn't go down too well with his mum, who drives him to the concert and doesn't like the crowd about. She lets him go until 11pm to follow his dream.
He doesn't get to find Black Sabbath, and the doorman doesn't even let him into the Band area. It's while he is walking away that he sees some groupies, on Band-ies as they call themselves. They say they aren't groupies as they aren't there to sleep around with the band, they are just there for the Music and vibe. It's here we meet Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson. She seems to be the ringleader amongst her 2 friends, and she gets William past the Doorman and to the group they are into called Stillwater.
William and Penny seem to connect straight away, and although you would think some Lady of the world and some schoolkid wouldn't have anything in common, they get on great and from afar you can see that William has a thing for Penny. She seems to treat him like a younger brother though, and we never see her having feelings for him. She hooks up with Russel who is in the band, and goes on Tour with them. William goes as well, as he had now got an assignment for Rolling Stone to interview Stillwater, and although his mum isn't keen, she gives her blessing for him to go with them as long and he phones home twice a day and makes it back in time for graduation.
Things don't quite go according to plan, but i'm not going to tell much about the way the story unfolds.
I know this is an old film now, but I think it is getting shown on Sky Movies sometime this month. I think this was one of the first films with Kate Hudson in a main role, and she has done pretty good since then.
This is very watchable and I kept watching that bit longer to see what was going to happen. Would William and Penny get together? Did Russell and Penny last? Did William graduate? Did his sister ever come back? Was the story printed? Although you get the vibe from the era, and of course drugs were involved at that time, it wasn't portrayed in a seedy or dangerous way. Moreso just the odd reference to Pot and you seen them lounging about smoking it. There wasn't any violence, smut or proper swearing. It was kinda like a chill out film.
A great film that developed well and although the ending wasn't that great, it was certainly worth the watch and I would recommend it.
Almost Famous (2000) written & directed by Cameron Crowe
Cameron Crowe weaves cinematic cuddles from gold sounds in his heartfelt paean to life as a teenage rock and roll journalist, set in the 1970s American west and based loosely on his own experience.
The first time I saw this film the attendants forgot to turn the lights out at the cinema and yet nobody stood up to complain - they were too enraptured by the spell cast by the screen and the music coming from the speakers. It was quite fitting in a way. This room full of strangers came together to enjoy the story instead of sitting alone in the dark. More in the spirit of a rock concert I guess; or the sense of community evoked here on a tour bus, crossing the country from California to New York and singing along to Tiny Dancer; feeling easy going if events go off track, occasionally, here and there.
Although, that might itself be a criticism of the film - that it is less interested in capturing the fear and loathing which overtook the music industry during this era than it should be. Even when the story reaches New York and takes several dark turns, there's a certain romanticism flying back to California. But this is a small quibble because really this is a coming of age movie, set in the director's favourite milieu, and he marshals his own material with a passionate voice.
The fictional stand in for Crowe is William Miller, a fifteen-year-old boy from San Diego, who sneaks into a Black Sabbath concert hoping to interview the band. He gets nowhere with this, but the guitarist of the support band, Stillwater, takes a shine to him, perhaps because he notices the budding chemistry between William and Penny Lane, a girl who befriends him at the stage door. Between them, Russell the guitarist and Penny the groupie draw William into their world, leaving him somewhat caught in the middle of the two of them, as he tries to find his own perspective as a man and as a journalist. Soon, William is on tour with the band, heading further and further east than he ever intended, finding it impossible to put his article together as the bus rolls from town to town.
As well as the music and the parties, William sees up close the friction between Russell and his singer Jeff Bebe, played by the excellent Jason Lee. In one scene, in which the precarious position of their manager is made clear, they have a hilarious argument over who appears more prominently on the band's t-shirt merchandise. Issues such as these come to a head in a brilliant set piece that satirises the proclivity of famous musicians to die in air crashes. Experiencing turbulence they believe will prove fatal, everybody on the plane confesses their darkest secrets - and then the turbulence stops and they all survive. Somehow, they will have to carry on living with themselves and each other. This is played for laughs, but possibly a film with an older protagonist would document the tragic underbelly of popular culture more savagely. But the film doesn't flinch away from at least acknowledging the seedier aspects of life on the road, especially after the band get a new manager and switch their tour bus for the private jet.
Although Billy Crudup and Frances McDormand receive top-billing, the film belongs to Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson, playing the boy journalist and the party-girl he falls in love with, who only has eyes for the band, but treats him with genuine kindness and affection. The film begins with jokes about William's age - his mother the professor (McDormand) - who later pronounces to her class "rock stars have kidnapped my son" and appears torn between taking pride in her son's precocity, and wanting to protect him from sleazy scumbags - has lied to him to get him to start school two years early - and when William and Penny Lane meet they both lie about their age.
In these early scenes Penny is definitely taller than William. By the end, Fugit appears to have grown a couple of inches, and is now taller than his co-star. This production quirk is touchingly apt - it captures the spiritual growth William enjoys during his journey with a compelling physical image. To begin with Penny seems worldly and enchanting, a great character to embody the free-spirited creativity of a magical culture. She is instrumental in opening doors for William to begin his travels. Yet by the time they reach the coast and William tells Penny some difficult home truths, their positions have reversed. He is now the person who belongs in this world and he must get her out of trouble before the ride is over. He helps her see she is better than the life of a groupie on tour, which was so fleetingly wonderful and in which she sparkled brighter than the others. Although people respond to her lively nature and make her most welcome, at the end of the tour everybody goes home, and she deserves more considerate treatment than that, she deserves something for her self. In a sense, she wants to regard the musicians with a wiser respect than they are worthy of. Reality can't match the power of her conception of it.
The view of the band that comes across in William's article is one of selfish infighting and insecurity. Rock stars aren't golden gods, they're flawed people, and some of their fans have greater qualities than their idols do. William sets Penny free to take off to Morocco for a new adventure she dreamed about, one which feels more shrewdly self-perceptive and fitting for her nature; in turn, she tricks Russell Hammond (Crudup) into coming to William's house, thinking he's gone to meet her, and so William finally gets the one-to-one interview Russell's been avoiding throughout the whole tour. Russell at last treats William like a professional journalist, instead of a kid brother to include in his mischief, and allows himself to be introspective about his faults. The band immediately denies the story, and for a moment, William is persona non grata with his editors at Rolling Stone, but then Russell insists they publish, and Stillwater need to face up to their troubles instead of running down a good kid, or their biggest fan.
There's also a suggestion during scenes with the younger fans that the culture encourages them to copy each other - some of the other girls seem to be taking their cues how to act from Penny, but it doesn't feel authentic, because it's not them, they don't have her panache. For a moment you wonder if Penny started out like them too, whether the whole character she puts forward to the world has been created on tour. Then, there's a great scene when she finally tells William her real name, and you realise everything Lady Goodman has told him is true, and she's every bit as interesting as Penny was. Her name somehow captures the truth of her situation and character, yet also the ambiguity of how the rock and roll lifestyle treats people.
In Almost Famous, the dark side of rock and roll excess is sanitised because these characters are able to confront their demons eventually and come through it, without sacrificing the pair of teenagers the band has pulled into their orbit. In all fairness, this seems like a sensible message, because plenty of people manage to lead successful careers without hitting the self destruct button, and plenty of kids are capable of navigating their coming of age dramas in adolescence and making smart choices in life. And yet William's mother is correct to feel paranoid, as any parent might, because bad things can and do happen. They nearly do here, in a New York hotel room, but this is not that movie, and these characters are not those people. Elaine Miller should have every faith in her boy, and her daughter is correct to warn her that she runs the risk of crushing his spirit and potential. It is every bit as legitimate to satirise uptight but loving mothers as it is wayward rock stars. Both can have a corrupting influence on youth if they are allowed to be ridiculous.
The supporting cast includes Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, and Zooey Deschanel as William's sister Anita. Most of the characters are presumably composites of people Crowe met on the road, but Philip Seymour Hoffman is superb in his cameo as the late and mythically great rock journalist Lester Bangs, who acts as a mentor to the young William Miller. Also memorable are the scenes when William impersonates an older persona to string along Ben Fong-Torres at Rolling Stone, whose editors are blissfully unaware they've sent a kid along to write what is shaping up to be their cover story.
An important theme in the film is that of authenticity, and Hoffman is given a number of memorable lines that speak to this directly. The film believes, as Lester Bangs did, that the bands need to be true to themselves, but so do the fans, and the job of a good journalist is to find their own voice and mediate between these two worlds with honesty, instead of following temptation. That's what William Miller does after he meets Penny Lane and Russell Hammond. Bangs seems to understand that the culture he loves is crazy and un-cool, and so is he, and that's the way he likes it, and he's not going to pander to pretension or ever get fooled by a rock star or a record label or a bad journalist who sold out and wrote what rock and roll wanted to be written instead of what the facts were.
This warts and all suspicion of what you love - and then loving it truly, if it's truly worth loving at all - is admirable to say the least. However, the more discerning viewer might be forgiven for asking, from this rose-tinted vantage, how much Crowe believes in or has followed his own advice. But the point stands that it's Lester Bangs, not Elaine Miller or Russell Hammond, who stands as the voice of moral authority in Almost Famous. And it's Bangs who William takes after, learning to be self critical and fair, hard working and sensible. Few films are brave enough to avoid the pit fall of dramatising the worst rock and roll stereotypes. Setting an example runs in both directions. Maybe rock stars have, metaphorically, kidnapped our children, but a culture or community is as good as the people who make it, and William and Penny are going to be okay.
It would be remiss not to draw attention to the film's excellent soundtrack. The story is set in 1973 and it draws on roughly fifty pieces of music to capture the spirit of the times. Some feel 1970-1973 was the last high-water mark for the golden era of rock music, but in any case, the sixties still loomed large and the vibe remains triumphant throughout. Artists featured include Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel (America), Black Sabbath (Paranoid), The Who (Sparks), Iggy Pop & The Stooges (Search and Destroy), Todd Rundgren (It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference), The Beach Boys (Feel Flows), Joni Mitchell (River), Neil Young (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Cortez the Killer), Elton John (Tiny Dancer, and Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters) Jimi Hendrix (Voodoo Child), David Bowie (I'm Waiting For The Man), Stevie Wonder (My Cherie Amour). Also included are several tracks by the bands who Crowe based Stillwater on - Led Zeppelin, The Allmond Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd - and of course, "Stillwater" themselves perform live.
There was actually a band called Stillwater from 1973-1982, although they are not the band featured in the film. Crowe obtained clearance to use the name, despite having taken it from a lyric in a Soundgarden song. Crowe wrote the songs for the fictional band with his wife Nancy Wilson, from the band Heart, and guitarist Peter Frampton. Although the bass player is played by Mark Kozelek, of 1990s slow-core band Red House Painters and later Sun Kil Moon, other musicians perform the tracks, including Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, on the song Fever Dog.
Finally, it's worth pointing out there are two cuts of Almost Famous. The original theatrical cut was 122 minutes long, but Crowe has restored much footage, which is available in the 162 minute "Bootleg" Cut, also variously known as "Stillwater" and "Untitled", which were working titles for the movie during production. Watching the shorter version you won't feel like much is missing, because the excisions manage to keep the running time down without impeding the story, but there's a lot to enjoy in the longer edition, and I found myself noticing exactly what was new even though some time had passed since I had seen Almost Famous previously. The film's engrossing atmosphere easily sustains the longer length, but if you're of the mind two hours is plenty long as any film has business being, fret not.
After his career as a journalist, Crowe directed and/or wrote a number of feature films, including two seminal 1980s high school movies - Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Say Anything (1989) - and the 1996 smash hit Jerry Maguire. Later on this decade he helmed Vanilla Sky (2001) and Elizabethtown (2005).
For my money, Almost Famous stands as his most satisfying work to date, likely to endure as one of the very best feel good films of the early twenty-first century, nostalgically looking back at the end of the rock music scene of the late sixties and early seventies.
Almost Famous is director Cameron Crowe's(Jery Mcguaire,Vanilla Sky,Elizabethtown) finest film starring Kate Hudson,Billy Crudup and Frances Mcdormand. I watched the extended cut and I must say it didn't appear to be too long at any point(despite its 160 minute duration).The normal duration is 122 minutes.
The film is set in 1973 when an aspiring rock journalist impresses Rolling stones magazine and they contact him to do a story for them on one of the new age rock bands. What is rather amazing is the fact that the writer is merely a teenager(15 years old) who has a hard time getting into one of the local concerts where several bands are playing. Following some events he comes close to this band called "Still waters" and they allow him to join them for their trip across several cities. Accompanying them are a few groupies(one of them happens to be Penny played by Hudson)
The film is essentially about these several characters-the rockstars,the young journalist,Penny Laine and the personal bonding they share in those few days.The story is original and lacks no entertainment value,there are lots of witty lines,realistic funny situations and the film ha
s a soul of its own. The backdrop of a newly famous rockband,who have differences between themselves makes for an interesting watch.
The interaction between the young boy(William Miller) and Penny is certainly the high point of the film;there is a lot of honesty in both the performances.I never thought Kate Hudson is such a brilliant actress,she pulls off such a difficult role with so much ease.Patrick Fugit is perfectly cast and is extremely likable as William. The two main actors playing rockstars are good too.
The story doesn't lose its consistency at any point.I loved the way it unfolded,slowly but beautifully.The scary plane ride at the end works really well for taking the story to a more satisfying end.Winner of the best screenplay and nominated for 3 more oscars,this one is certainly good cinema.
Almost Famous is a film I consider one to watch before you die and is a perfect showcase of the ingredients for an extraordinary movie. You can't have anything memorable and vivid without an unconditionally believable cast who, more importantly, connect naturally. For me, Almost Famous represents what newer releases are missing. You can have the most famous, highly paid actors and actresses in the world on an infinite budget but without a script as true-to-life and touching as Almost Famous', it's wasted money.
Not only does it have some of the best dialogue, written by Cameron Crowe himself, that I've heard in a film, but the characters are subtly yet brilliantly intertwined. Billy Crudup does an outstanding job as the unpredictable lead guitarist Russell Hammond, for Stillwater, with more heart than he lets on. Frances McDormand was the most believable mother I have seen in a movie! Constantly overbearing but likeable with some fantastic lines, particularly with Russell. The most depth was given to Kate Hudson as Penny Lane who really shone throughout and gave a more than admirable performance.
However, my favourite performance was from THE most underrated actor in the history of film; Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs. Undeniably hilarious in Along Came Polly and perennially quoted, but not praised enough. For some reason I usually enjoy the support cast more than the lead in a movie and there's usually one in particular. This time, it was Hoffman. His very small but important sub-plot with William (Patrick Fugit) was done perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue when they're talking on the phone near the end of the movie. He acted like a distant older brother to William, a sort of guidance to the world of music journalism and it was inspiring to see it done so well on film. He literally stole every scene he was in. That phone call is how I imagine journalists to talk; almost like poetry for film:
"See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong."
"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool".
They're two great lines from Hoffman and although he had limited time and seemed unused, it was great that he was just a support character. Usually, like with Barry Pepper, I want a talented support actor to get more screen but restricting Hoffman as William's go-to-guy was so much more effective.
If you're wondering what the actual movie is about after that 400 word ramble of praise, well it basically shows a very young aspiring music journalist with an over-protective mother and rebellious sister (Zooey Deshanel who is superb as usual), who goes on tour with Stillwater to write a front page article on them in the Rolling Stones magazine. You don't have to enjoy the genre to enjoy this original and thought-provoking dramedy.
Cameron Crowe is known for his teen dramedies such as Say Anything, and whilst he does sometimes saunter into melodramatic excess, he does have a hand for how teens think, as well as capturing a sense of time and place. No better has he done this than in the Oscar-nominated Almost Famous, which won Crowe an Academy Award for the screenplay he wrote, which was based on his own experienced as a teenager touring with The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and writing for Rolling Stone magazine.
William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is a young boy aspiring to be a rock music journalist, whilst trying to contend with his hugely conservative and overbearing mother Elaine (Frances McDormand). Miraculously, he scores a job with Rolling Stone magazine, to write an article about the hand Stillwater, with the potential of his article making it to the front page. Along the way, he comes across a girl who calls herself Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), a girl who seems to have no life outside of the groupie culture.
It's a sweet and sincere film that boasts a great ensemble cast, and some great songs throughout. It's intimate and involving, and Crowe's normal hand for humanism shines through in spades.
A potent dramedy about the rock and roll lifestyle that initially appears very simple but hides a more nuanced story about responsibility and coming of age. Cameron Crowe's clever screenplay and a great soundtrack make this worth a watch.
Who will like this film:
Those who love Rock music and everything that goes with bands of the early 70's and what life was like on the road.
Cameron Crowe, Drector/ writer of Jerry Maguire.
15 Theme/ other: some drugs references. Language: Occasional/ strong. Sex/nudity: Some moderate references. Violence: none.
Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Frances McDourmand, Anna Pauqin as well as a whole host of other stars.
William wants to be a writer, he is obssessed with Rock music much to the dissaproval of his mother. Rolling Stone magazine commissions him to write a piece following a rock band. Soon he embarks on an adventure that changes his life forever.
The music is brilliant and this film gives you a great insight into the world of a rock band.
This soundtrack is amazing with music from bands such as The Who, Black Sabbath, Yes, Joni Mitchell, Rod Stewart and the Allman Brothers Band.
Penny Lane: I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriosuly, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.
Definatly one to look out for if your a fan of the period and rock music. This film mirrors the struggles of the band Guns n Roses and is a really good watch.
The film opens in San Diego, 1969. A young boy's passion for music is fuelled by his big sister's rebellion against their quirky mother who thinks all rock and roll music is about is "drugs and promiscuous sex". The sister elopes with her boyfriend at 18 and leaves her brother all her records.
We then skip forward and meet the boy (William) as a 14 year old in 1973. He writes for the school magazine and when he hears Rolling Stone magazine's infamous journalist Lester Bangs is in town giving a radio interview, he waits outside the station to meet him. This initial meeting proves to be a catalyst in the schoolboy's life. He manages to land an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to interview a new rock bank called Stillwater and so begins an amazing journey for a small town schoolboy who gets drawn into their inner circle.
This film is a cross between a coming of age drama and a rock and roll film and Cameron Crowe managed to take a somewhat tired plot and make it ring true. In my opinion, even people who couldn't care less about rock music will enjoy this film because it's not so much about the music as it is about life and the coming of age of one young boy.
The main cast:
Frances McDormand- William's Mother
Billy Crudup - Stillwater band leader Russell Hammond
Kate Hudson- Penny Lane, leader of the 'Band aids'
Patrick Fugit- William
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Lester Bangs
Anna Paquin - Polexia Aphrodisia.
And special guest appearance by Peter Frampton (looking scarily like a Bee Gee).
The soundtrack to Almost Famous is reflective of the overall atmosphere of the film with lots of early seventies stuff, most of which I'm not familiar with, but of the singers I recognised there was Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and David Bowie.
Many of the great lines in the film belong to Frances McDormand, and although her performance as the overprotective mother is fantastic, in my opinion Mr Hoffman acts everyone else off the screen - he's a hugely underated actor who can turn himself to just about any role (who amongst us can forget the 'shart' scene in another of his films?). Here he plays a world weary, razzled journalist who's been there, done that and got the t-shirt. A special mention should also be made of Patrick Fugit, who's first role this was, and who manages to capture the emotion of qawky teenage kid caught between a fuddy duddy mum and the world of uber-cool rock stars and their hangers-on perfectly. You can't help feeling for him.
About the dvd:
It's 118 minutes long, it's in widescreen and has 5.1 Surround sound. When you reach the main menu the five choices are: subtitles (English, Spanish and Portuguese); scene selection; audio set up; special features or simply play movie.
You have a choice of four theatrical trailers of different movies here one of which is this one;
Stillwater's "Fever Dog" music video; and
A HBO behind the scenes featurette called 'The making of Almost Famous'. This last choice is about 15 minutes long if my memory serves me right, and is really worthwhile watching in my opinion as it contains interviews with Peter Frampton, Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit, Philip Seymour Hoffman and of course Cameron Crowe. Cameron explains that this is a film which is close to his heart because it is basically autobiographical - Cameron was a budding journo as a teenager and reporting for Rolling Stone magazine himself. As he says: "that was me at that exact same spot". As a consequence this film is very well written and directed by him.
We also see some photos of him with Kris Kristofferson, Robert Plant, Rod Stewart, the Allman Brothers, Neil Young and David Crosby.
This might sound trite if this kind of movie isn't to your taste, but in my opinion Almost Famous is funny, touching, and one of those rare movies that makes you feel like you've gained something just for having seen it. As Lester Bangs says "Rock and Roll is dead", which is a shame because Cameron Crowe managed to revive it just for short while with this move. I would definitely recommend it.
Almost Famous follows an under-age wannabe rock reporter following mediocre US band Stillwater as they tour the country, trying to write a feature article for Rolling Stone magazine (who he's somehow managed to convince over the phone that he's a fully fledged adult).
We see the band rivalries, notably between nominal lead singer (the fabulous Justin Lee) and the more charismatic guitarist (Billy Crudup) who always outshines him. There are complications from the groupies, or 'band aids' in tow - Kate Hudson plays 'Penny Lane' in the best performance of her career: she's having an affair with the married Crudup, the young journalist is totally smitten with her. On the way an incompetent manager(Noah Taylor) , rock journo mentor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and overprotective mother (the ever-excellent Frances Mc Dormand) all add their bit.
I won't spoil the end but there are laughs and tears along the way - love, betrayal and a genuine fondness for the characters in this very funny film.
This movie is a must see for anyone, it is absolutely wonderful and highly entertaining. It deals a lot with the music era from the 60's which I absolutely loved. I love movies that show the time when music made the world go round and the lives that these artists had back in the day. And being that this movie is inspired by true events make it all the more real and intriguing to watch.
The story is about a nerdy young 15 year old boy named William, played by Patrick Fugit, who is determined to be a professional music journalist. William ends up getting advice from the prominent rock editor of Creem magazine, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who gives Williams his first rock article assignment. He tasks Williams with getting an interview and writing an article about Black Sabbath. However, when Williams is unable to get the attention of the headlining band and runs into a smaller time band who opened the show for Black Sabbath called Stillwater. Williams writes a fantastic article about this up and coming band that the editor of Creem happily publishes for him. This exciting article attracts the attention of the editor of Rolling Stone Magazine who asks William if he would be interested in traveling on the road with the Stillwater band in order to write a behind the scenes article about the group. Obviously Williams is ecstatic and jumps at the chance.
While Williams mother is not happy at all about her son gallivanting around with a group of satan worshipping rock stars (this is how she thinks of rockbands) she can't deny her son such an amazing opportunity so she VERY reluctantly lets him go. While on this adventure of his life William befriends this crazy rockers who take him under their wings and try and show him the time of his life. William also meets the groups Bandaides, which are groupies that supposedly don't sleep with the artists, yeah right, they are just there to support the music. In the Bandaid group William meets Penny Lane (not her real name), played by the beautiful and talented Kate Hudson who also takes an interest in William and Penny and William become very good friends.
This story is all about the drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll that takes place while on the road with this up and coming band that is on their way to stardom. It is a very entertaining story and probably one of my favorite movies. I really enjoyed this film and I know that you will too.
Directed by Cameron Crowe this is the story of a ridiculously young music journalist who convinces Rolling Stone to pay him to follow new big hit band 'Stillwater' and write an article for the magazine. On tour he learns the hard way about the often fickle nature of friendships in the music industry, the unique moral system of the groupie sub-culture, and the ravages of fame. Stars Kate Hudson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Noah Taylor, and Anna Paquin.