“Don’t let those swill merchants rewrite you.”
Directed by Cameron Crowe (2000) Starring: Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Kate Hudson
Almost Famous has definitely become a victim of the hype-machine. Most of the people I met in high school who had seen this movie talked about it in hushed religious tones. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t terribly impressed the first time I watched it, but seeing a guy go after what he was passionate for is a fairly brilliant story. Glad that I stuck around for a second viewing.
William Morris (Fugit) is a young music writer who lands a commission with Rolling Stone on the band Stillwater. Along the way, William becomes enamored with the lovely Penny Lane (Hudson). In a rather equivalent situation, he also admires Stillwater’s front man Russell Hammond (Crudup). The story alternates behind words of wisdom from Penny about being around a band and William desperately trying to get an interview with Russell.
Why is Penny Lane an issue? She always comes off a little too idealized to be considered a real character. While she’s not perky enough to be an official Manic Pixie Dream Girl, there isn’t much that’s revealed about her that alters William’s original idealization. It’s not enough that he’s in the observing role for much of her antics. While the moments in New York suggest that there are real emotions behind her persona, she isn’t fully realized by the end. The movie drops off to let William finish his story (since this is his story) with Rolling Stone, and the last word comes from mentor Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman): “And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don’t have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we’re smarter.”
But like I said earlier: The strengths of Almost Famous lie in its basic plot, sans extended romance. The ability to run off and write about a band for a national magazine, away from the perpetually nervous mother and unhappy school life in order to see everything that goes on behind the scenes while on tour is a fantasy for a fifteen year old kid, especially now.