Almost Famous - theatrical cut review by The Grim Ringler

Almost Famous - theatrical version

Love is very hard to find and even harder to fake. Cameron Crowe, to me, has made two of the most perfect love stories set to celluloid - Singles and now Almost Famous. One is about romantic love, the other, AF, about the love of music. A love that, once you get it, no matter what it does to you or how you change and grow - its there forever.

Almost Famous is about William, an over-protected, brilliant teen that is turned onto music by his older sister and once he finds it, music becomes his life. At fifteen William meets fringe rock critic Lester Bangs (the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and begins writing for Creem magazine, which leads him to a chance encounter with up-and-comers Stillwater, which changes his world completely. William, in one night, goes from a geeky, awkward teenager to a journalist for Rolling Stone doing what may become a cover article for the touring Stillwater, and suddenly his view of what it is to be a music fan and a music journalist blurs as he gets closer to the band and their groupies and is faced with how much of it all to write and how much to bury. And suddenly he is forced between Stillwater and his allegiance to them and a Rolling Stone demanding a tell-all and there seems to be no way to please both. But as William struggles with whom to please he begins falling in love with groupie Penny Lane and finds that as hard as he has tried to stay impartial, he cares about the people he is covering, perhaps too much so to be honest.

More than a story just about a young man growing up and finding himself away from his mother and home, finding out who he is and what the world can be like, this is more about music and one boys love affair with it. There is a lot in the movie about William (Patrick Fugit) and the character of Penny (Kate Hudson) and their strange relationship as they both follow Stillwater, William as a journalist and Penny as a Band-Aid, which is sort of like a modified groupie. But its seeing William interact with the band that really held me, watching this boy meet people he listened to as a fan and suddenly becoming part of their traveling entourage and even one of them, but seeing how tenuous that relationship is as it becomes apparent that they like William as much because he is a sweet kid as because they fear what he can do to them in the pages of Rolling Stone. William is a boy playing at being a man, but more, he is a geek playing at being cool. But then so are all of these characters, everyone putting on an act and trying to be someone or part of something they are not. The only tie between them all something magical and mysterious on the music that brings them together and binds them.

Yes, this is a coming of age story, but its also a love letter to music. It shows the business side of the music and its ugly. And it shows the behind the scenes side and its shady and heartless. And it shows the moments between it all when it seems as if the band is really nothing more than a group of people that just work at the same place every day and are managing to tolerate one another. But underneath it all is the undying love for the music. That never changes. Cause sometimes love can overcome all other things. As the love Williams mother (Francis McDormand) feels for her son manages to out-weigh the fear she has of this world her son has become a part of at such a young age.

Its weird to watch this film too because it reminds you how sad the entire music business has become. You have to wonder if anyone even has fun with it anymore or if its all just another business and good music and good albums just happen by mere chance. But Almost Famous captures the wonder it must have been to live in the era when rock was coming into its own and what it must have been like to be a part of it all, even if on the periphery, and its something to marvel.

The performances in the film are brilliant across the boards, especially those of Fugit, Hudson, Hoffman, and McDormand, and while everyone in the film is good, without these four, the film wouldnt be nearly as powerful. As with a lot of Crowes work, there are a few scenes that are WAY over-written, and the movie slows to a near halt when this happens, but luckily the heart of the film stays true, and that makes up for any minor hiccups that occur otherwise. What makes it all the more interesting is knowing that Crowe, to a degree, LIVED Almost Famous, and I think thats what makes the film so wonderful. That this isnt a jaded film about how awful rock stars are, or how awful the industry is, but is in fact a love letter to music itself is what makes this film so special to me. Its easy to hate the music industry, and easy to hate rock stars, its almost clich to hate both, but as much as you can hate them, there is always the music, and the music sometimes can speak louder than anything else, reminding you of why you got into any of it in the first place.

This is a movie about a band. Its a movie about a boy following his dream and following his heart. Its about loving something enough to walk away from it. Its about the death and re-birth of rock and pop music and how much it has become about business and how little it is about making art. And its about the magic and purity that can happen sometimes when people get together and pour their hearts out into something and somehow manage to create Art that becomes bigger than any of its creators combined. Its a hell of a film and it should be mandatory viewing for all rock stars!

c(unrequited love slave to Fairuza Balk)


9 out of 10 Jackasses

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