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   ALMOST FAMOUS (2000) 

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CAST
Patrick Fugit
Kate Hudson
Billy Crudup
Jason Lee
Frances McDormand
Noah Taylor
Zooey Deschanel
Fariuza Balk
Anna Paquin
Philip Seymour Hoffman

DIRECTED BY
Cameron Crowe

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Time: 122 mins.
Rating: R
Official Web Site
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Music

Won Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Hudson & McDormand) and Best Film Editing.

BOTTOM LINE: It's been a long time since I've seen a film, that I would pay to see again. I'm not generally a huge fan of Cameron Crowe's films. He definitely has a distinct voice and writes interesting characters, but he usually falls short in the execution. Maybe he just needed to get personal. By tapping into his own experiences he's created an enjoyable, funny, poignant film about the early days of rock and roll. Is it the best movie ever made? Probably not, but it's certainly the most well-written and entertaining one I've seen all year. A film that has great characters who are honest and believable, even though they're rock stars. Crowe gives the audience an amazing experience – the chance to travel with an up-and-coming rock band and understand what it means to be "almost famous."

The audience shares these moments with the band through the eyes of a 15-year-old writer/fan William Miller, played with wide-eyed grace by newcomer Patrick Fugit. He's trying to fit into this very adult world of casual sex, booze and drugs, and it's not easy. His over-protective mother doesn't help. Most of the humor of the film stems from him being the outsider, "the enemy", as the band members from "Stillwater" good-naturedly call him. He may be young, but he's still a journalist, a person who can make or break this still struggling band. He's also a huge fan, which makes it a struggle for him. Despite repeated warnings by his mentor Lester Bangs (Hoffman), he begins to like the members of the band. A writer can't be honest and unmerciful when he cares about hurting his subjects' feelings.

It doesn't help that he's falling in love with one of the band's lovely female travelling companions. Penny Lane (Hudson) is the on-the-road girlfriend of lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Crudup). Penny considers herself and her female friends as muses more than groupies. They believe they help the band write and play wonderful music. She tries to convince William that she's OK with the way things are between herself and Russell. She knows it's just a road thing and that he has other responsibilities. It's all about the music and no one's going to get hurt. Though William looks up to Russell, and spends most of the film trying to get an interview with him, he loves Penny and is disgusted by the way he treats her. She's a special girl and Russell doesn't deserve her. Though the band befriends him by taking him along and giving him unlimited access, he discovers the limits of that friendship when he tries to tell the truth about what happened.


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"Never take it seriously, you never get hurt. Never get hurt, you can always have fun. And if you ever get lonely, you just go to the record store and visit all your friends."

In the end, it all works out the way it should. Crowe doesn't cop out for the happy ending, but gives us the proper one. William is the conscience of the film. The one person who sticks up for himself and what he knows is right, but not in an overbearing, sappy way. It's easy for him to swallow his indignation at their behavior because he's never encountered people like this before. He doesn't understand why they can't be honest with themselves and each other. His character gives heart to a film that could have been just a fluffy, rock road flick. He cares about these people and by the end, so do you. You desperately want this band to pull it together, put aside their differences and become legends. You become the ultimate fan. Though the band "Stillwater" is a conglomeration of several bands Crowe encountered during the early 70s, the film was so well-made it's made me jazzed to learn more about those pivotal bands and their music.

I liked everything about this film – the art direction was great, the concert scenes rocking and the music intoxicating. The performances were dead-on wonderful. Fugit was perfect as the young fan on the ride of his live. Billy Crudup and Jason Lee were the perfect rock and roll guys, down-to-earth and self-absorbed all at the same time. Though a small part, Hoffman makes the most of his role as William's disgruntled writing mentor, throwing off some of the film's best lines. Frances McDormand practically steals the show as the mother trying to keep her son from going down a soulless life path. Her phone calls are hysterical, causing emotional trauma to anyone on the receiving end. However, the person who steals the show is Kate Hudson. Her performance as the lovely Penny Lane is mesmerizing. She is the soul of the film, bringing light to every frame. It's no surprise that all the men in the film are in love with her. You will be to at the end of the film. ALMOST FAMOUS is a joy to watch. Like your favorite album, it's a film you'll want to visit again and again.


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