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Almost Famous Movie Poster

Year: 2000
Director: Cameron Crowe

Almost Famous Download

Cast:

Billy Crudup (Russell Hammond), Frances McDormand (Elaine Miller), Kate Hudson (Penny Lane), Jason Lee (Jeff Bebe), Patrick Fugit (William Miller), Zooey Deschanel (Anita Miller), Michael Angarano (Young William), Anna Paquin (Polexia Aphrodisia), Fairuza Balk (Sapphire), Noah Taylor (Dick Roswell), John Fedevich (Ed Vallencourt), Mark Kozelek (Larry Fellows), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lester Bangs), Liz Stauber (Leslie), Jimmy Fallon (Dennis Hope), Olivia Rosewood (Beth from Denver), Bijou Phillips (Estrella Starr), Alice Marie Crowe (Mrs. Deegan), J.J. Cohen (Roadie Scully), Gary Kohn (Roadie Gregg (as Gary Douglas Kohn))

Storyline:

Writer and director Cameron Crowe's experiences as a teenage rock journalist - he was a regular contributor to Rolling Stone while still in high school - inspired this coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old boy hitting the road with an up-and-coming rock band in the early 1970s. Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand) is a bright, loving, but strict single parent whose distrust of rock music and fears about drug use have helped to drive a wedge between herself and her two children, Anita (Zooey Deschanel) and William (Patrick Fugit). Anita rebels by dropping out of school and becoming a stewardess, but William makes something of his love of rock & roll by writing album reviews for a local underground newspaper. William's work attracts the attention of Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), editor of renegade rock magazine Creem, who takes William under his wing and gives him his first professional writing assignment - covering a Black Sabbath concert. While William is unable to score an interview with the headliners, the opening act, Stillwater, are more than happy to chat with a reporter, even if he's still too young to drive, and William's piece on the group in Creem gains him a new admirer in Ben Fong-Torres (Terry Chen), an editor at Rolling Stone. Torres offers William an assignment for a 3,000-word cover story on Stillwater, and over the objections of his mother (whose parting words are "Don't use drugs!"), and after some stern advice from Bangs (who says under no circumstances should he become friends with a band he's covering), Williams joins Stillwater on tour, where he becomes friendly with guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee). William also becomes enamored of Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), a groupie traveling with the band who is no older than William, but is deeply involved with Russell. Lester Bangs and Ben Fong-Torres, incidentally, were real-life rock writers Crowe worked with closely during his days as a journalist. Almost Famous' original score was composed by Nancy Wilson of Heart (who is also Crowe's wife). Mark Deming, Rovi

Reviews:

Finally, a movie worth the full price of a ticket! Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe's semi-autobigraphical story of an aspiring rock journalist who goes on tour with a band in the 1970's. If it sounds familiar, it's probably because the story is hardly new. There have been dozens of movies made about the rock and roll lifestyle: the drugs, the sex, the fights, and all the bumps on the road to success.

So what sets Almost Famous apart? The acting, for one. Frances McDormand was brilliant as William's (newcomer Patrick Fugit) well-meaning but overbearing mother. Fugit, for his part, had a convincing performance as the shy, awkward teenager struggling to be a journalist but at the same time aching to belong. Kate Hudson, in her breakout role as groupie "Penny Lane", gave her character depth beyond what might have been a limiting role. And Billy Crudup, as band Stillwater's charismatic lead guitarist, shines. Jason Lee is always good, and as Stillwater's lead singer, this role is no exception. And I can't review this film without giving a shout-out to the chronically and criminally-underrated Philip Seymour Hoffman, who steals every scene he's in with his portrayal of legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs.

The writing in the film also contributes to its effect. Many of the great lines belong to McDormand but there are plenty of others to go around. In addition, the music of the era can't be beat. Everything from Simon and Garfunkle to Alvin and the Chipmunks shows up at some point in the movie's extensive musical score.

The plot may not be particularly original, but it rings true. I of course am approaching this review as a music fan and someone interested in the industry. Nonetheless, I believe that even people who couldn't care less about rock music will enjoy this movie, since it's not so much about the music as it is about life. A central theme is the conflict of William: Should he remain a detached but lonely outsider so as to be an impartial journalist, or allow himself to make friends with these people and feel like he belongs? Aside from bringing up questions of journalistic ethics, this dilemma mirrors much of what people in all wakes of life deal with daily.

Almost Famous is realistic, funny, touching, and one of those rare movies that makes you feel like you've gained something just for having seen it. It's too bad that they say rock and roll is dead, cause we could sure use more movies like this one!

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There's a (by now) well-known scene early on in ALMOST FAMOUS when William Miller is poring through the records his older sister Anita has left behind for him since she ran off from home. Inside the album cover of The Who's TOMMY, she leaves William a note, telling him to listen to this with a candle lit, and he'll be able to see his future. He puts on the record, "Sparks" comes on, and the look on his face as he listens is the look every rock fan will recognize.

There's been tons of stuff written about rock-n-roll music, from those who think, like William's mother Elaine, that it's a corrupting influence(or those who go even farther and consider it "the devil's music"), to those who insist the music is meaningless and to take it seriously smacks of pretension, because it's "only music." And then there are people like Cameron Crowe, who recognize rock-n-roll, and the music which came in its wake, is the shared experience of many people starting from the 1950's, in the way maybe that plays and earlier types of music were in centuries before. Sure, there's television and movies as well, but rock music is shorter and more direct. And sure, it can just be fun and a way to cut loose once in a while, but it's also something which can speak to what we love, what we long for, what we're afraid of, what we think, what wounds us inside, and so much more.

Because Crowe is a fan, he's able to capture all of this in his movie. It's not just in the obvious moments, like the people on the tour bus singing along to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," which lifts them out of their black mood, or singer Jeff Bebe leading everybody into singing "On the Cover of Rolling Stone" when he learns he and his fellow bandmates will be on the cover. It's in the wild spirit of people like Sapphire, one of the Band-Aids(read: groupies) who follow the band Stillwater and others as they tour the U.S., or in the more tender spirit of someone like her sister Band-Aid Penny Lane, who believes she and the other Band-Aids serve as a muse to bands like Stillwater, and who soaks in all of her experiences like a sponge. It's also in William, who tries(like Crowe did) to balance reporting with his very obvious love for the music. And it's especially in the line I quoted from at the top, which Sapphire says to Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond late in the movie. To be sure, the road of rock-n-roll isn't all covered in roses. There's outrageous behavior(like how Russell treats Penny, or William losing his virginity to three of the groupies), drugs, excess, and yes, pretension(like when Jeff lectures Penny about the power of rock-n-roll and then adds, "And the chicks are cool, right?" But those who wanted this to be more like THIS IS SPINAL TAP are missing the point. This isn't a movie about the obvious problems and silliness in rock music. It's about what still draws people to it, and though Crowe acknowledges these people's faults, he still loves them for who they are.

Of course, there's a lot more reasons why ALMOST FAMOUS is a great movie besides its love of rock-n-roll. It's well acted across the board(in addition to all the performances mentioned several times, I'd like to highlight Fairuza Balk as Sapphire; not only does she get the best line in the movie(along with Frances McDormand's "Don't take drugs!" and "Rock stars have kidnapped my son") with that line about music(I also like what she and the other groupies yell as they're about to deflower William, "Death to Opie!"), but she also captures the carefree spirit of the time. She may not be important plot wise, but if you took her character out, the movie would be missing something), it's a terrific coming-of-age story, it's a bittersweet love story, the dialogue is great, and it looks terrific. But it's Crowe's obvious love for the music, and for the people who love it, that makes ALMOST FAMOUS the best thing I've seen so far this year.

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