“Almost Famous a classic..almost”
Mad About Movies
No one will argue that the rock of the 60’s changed the face of music, if not the world. The music of the 80’s is still recent enough and gets enough airplay that it remains nostalgic for its infectious quirkiness. Somehow it seems the music of the 70’s needs a defense, for it is often resigned to “classic rock”- only radio or stereotyped as music for “burners”, those poor long haired dudes stuck in the past. Right on, man. But how can a decade that produced artists as splendid as David Bowie, James Taylor and Led Zeppelin or as pioneering as Elvis Costello, The Sex Pistols, and Talking Heads be forgotten? Not to mention the incredible and oft maligned disco period! To top it off, the 70’s provided great billboard chart toppers from truly enduring and diverse artists like Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac.
Cameron Crowe who wrote and directed “Almost Famous” was a sparkly eyed 15 year old (played by Patrick Fugit) during the early 70’s and had the timing and talent to write for Rolling Stone and document the rock scene from the front row. Well, actually, better than the front row, since “Almost Famous” is a semi-autobiographical account of Crowe’s opportunity to “hang out” with the fictitious band “Stillwater” (a cross between early Eagles and Foghat) on a road trip and experience all the fun and frivolity. This is a movie with no real lead character and Crowe’s sharp writing allows the very talented and fairly unknown cast to shine. If “band-aid” (groupie) “Penny Lane” reminds you a lot of Goldie Hawn, she should, she’s her daughter and may prove to have even more talent than her mom. Every hardcore music fan read Lester Bang’s “Creem” magazine and Phillip Seymour Hoffman memorably captures Lester’s veteran spirit as he counsels Crowe’s alter-ego on the realties of being a music journalist. Some may criticize Crowe’s sweet approach wherein he only skims the surface of the decadence so prevalent in the period’s road trips, but Crow’s focus is on the fanciful and fascination of the music and the artists, and the film ends up being more likeable for its deftness. Only a few scenes hit a flat note. A Quaalude overdose scene elicits mixed reactions, not by intention I suspect. In another scene we see an editor of Rolling Stone telling young William (Crowe’s character) he won’t print a story on the band because the guitar player (played spot-on by Billy Crudup) is denying its accuracy. I wonder if that would EVER happen at a rag like Rolling Stone. Those missteps aside, this is the most nostalgic and astute look at an under-appreciated period in music history. Frances McDormand as William’s protective mom may get an Oscar nomination for her effortless portrayal of the resolute parent many of us now realize, years later, we were blessed to have. Of course, the soundtrack rocks. Right on dude.
Rated “R” for lots of sexual innuendo, 26 F-words, one brief glimpse of female partial nudity, and some drug use, a “light” touch considering the material.