Rating and Review:
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Philip Seymour Hoffman
"Almost Famous", the new film by Cameron Crowe, is about Rock-n-Roll in the seventies and the stories of those caught in the middle of it.
In a way, Crowe's weakness is also his strength. His characters are unrealistically benevolent, but it is also their good nature that is the most fun to watch. "Almost Famous", set in 1973, does not contain the slightest trace of marijuana or venereal disease, instead it is filled with joy and enlightenment. Patrick Fugit plays William Miller, a 15 year old kid who luckily receives the opportunity to write for the next issue of "Rolling Stones" on a band named Stillwater. Following them on their country tour, Miller meets all kinds of people. He is our hero because although he hangs out with the band people, he is not yet one of them.
One of the people Miller meets is a groupie called Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Lane is a novice trying hard to be a player. She thinks she is screwing guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) for legitimate reasons. She thinks he loves her, but her heart is broken when she realizes he is married. She tries to kill herself, and ironically it is Miller the newcomer who comes to the rescue and puts her on a plane that will take her back home. When the fun is gone and reality kicks in, Lane finds she has to move on. For her, it's not too late.
Hammond may be a bad lover, but he is not a bad guy. He is a man who surrenders to desires and cowardice. Miller, on the other hand, is the self-reflection of director Cameron Crowe, who used to write for The Rolling Stones when he was at about the same age. Like every teenager who grows up in that era of history, Miller starts off loving Rock-n-Roll for its music, but ends up falling for the atmosphere, the fun and, in his case, Lane. Miller's single mother, Elaine (Frances McDormand) does not like what her son is doing, for she believes Rock-n-Roll is a gateway to drugs and promiscuous sex. Though she is portrayed in the film as unreasonably strict and excessively protective of her children, there are grounds for her worries.
"Almost Famous" is great because its characters feel so real, and we can see their weaknesses behind all the glamour and "coolness". There isn't a strong central thread, we just ride along with Miller and the band, and on the way we see the true colors of every one of them. It is, indeed, an enjoyable experience.
© Marcus Chan 2001