Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Almost Famous

Year: 2000
Running time: 122 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: English
Screenplay: Cameron Crowe
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Zooey Deschanel, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John Fedevich, Mark Kozelek, Noah Taylor, Jimmy Fallon, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Liz Stauber

Penny Lane: Queen band-aid.
Almost Famous is, 12 years on, still Cameron Crowe's high watermark. Borrowing from the time he blagged a job as a rock journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, it is a loving tribute to lost youth and discovering rock 'n' roll. Stuffed full of beautiful moments that highlight Crowe's contagious love of music, the 15 year-old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is introduced to life-enhancing rock 'n' roll music by his rebellious sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel who, as always, makes you fervently wish she was never off the screen) before she leaves home to be an airline stewardess. Their mother Elaine (Frances McDormand, also every bit as consistently wonderful as you'd expect) has previously banned rock music from the house based on the assumption that all the musicians are on drugs. Derailed from his prior ambition, William finds himself on tour with the fictional band Stillwater.

While trying to get interviews with the band he has an experience of a lifetime; including falling in love with the irresistible Penny Lane (Kate Hudson, who has never topped this role and thanks to a descent into a McConaughey rom-com nightmare from which she may never escape, probably never will) and losing his virginity to three girls at once. There are comedy moments approaching Spinal Tap-levels of hilarity, such as Stillwater's lead guitar player Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) turning up with William at a house party, getting wired on LSD and screaming “I am a golden god!” from the rooftop before jumping into the swimming pool and the argument about a T-shirt that preceded it, including the great line from lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee): “Your looks have become a problem!” Both of these moments are topped by the great confession scene when, assuming they're all about to die in a plane crash, they all start to come clean about what (or who) they've done. At other times it can be genuinely touching, such as the time the band make up after falling out simply by singing along to Tiny Dancer.

Stillwater take to the skies with their new manager.
It’s made with such love that to watch it is to feel like you’re in a comfortable bubble of nostalgic childhood memories of one unforgettable experience – never mind that the experience was neither yours nor mine. The final scenes are beautifully poignant - deflated, without his interview, Anita spies William sitting dejectedly in an airport lounge and takes him home, fitting, as it was Anita who indirectly sent William on this journey in the beginning. The point of the film is summed up when William finally gets his interview with Russell: "So Russell...what do you love about music?" "To begin with, everything."

That is what the film is about. It's all about the music. Everything else is unimportant. It's a simple point, but the film spends two hours making it in the most joyous way possible.

Score: 9/10

These reviews by Lukas, Colin and Emily are illustrative of how well-loved Almost Famous is, and it wouldn't be right not to read the review by Peter at Rolling Stone, would it?