Almost Famous may be 15 years old, but it’s a timeless film. Set in the early 70s, it’s based around 15 year old William Miller – a wannabe journalist – who blags himself an article in Rolling Stone magazine about the fortunes and fame of up and coming rock band Stillwater.
William finds himself unexpectedly on the “Almost Famous” tour with the band, accompanied by their entourage of groupies – the Bandaids – headed up by the infamous young Miss Penny Lane (played beautifully by Kate Hudson), with Rolling Stone expecting an in depth piece on the band which they plan to feature on the cover.
William lies about his age in order to get the gig, and his likeability and willingness to indulge the band in their rock star behaviour leads to them taking him under their wing and onto the tour bus as they cross America. William is quickly thrust into a world of excess, tempered by his own desire to succeed as well as the constant words of his concerned mother ringing in his ears. All he wants is his interview, but getting it is harder than it seems due to the egos and wild behaviour that gets in the way.
If the overview sounds like just another rock and roll flick, it’s anything but. There’s a lot of sub plots in the film around family relationships, love, truth and jealousy. Patrick Fugit is brilliantly cast as William; young and vulnerable, dogged and determined, professional yet – at times – obviously completely overwhelmed by the situation he’s found himself in. The band struggles, mainly between lead singer Jeff (Jason Lee, of My Name is Earl fame) and lead guitarist Russell (played by Billy Cruddup), are portrayed with a reality that most of us can only imagine, but find extremely believable. Band rifts, jealousy and bitterness threaten to tear them apart; only adding to William’s difficulty in getting the story he needs.
With the added distraction of the Bandaids, whose delusions of being more than just a groupie are both comical and endearing, William experiences a real coming of age. Dippy, dedicated and sometimes drugged up, the young girls embody the effects that the power of a rockstar can have. Old before their time, well travelled and already experienced in lust and heartbreak, the girls will do anything for “their men”, which is naturally taken advantage of by the band.
Kate Hudson is an absolute joy to watch. She lights up the screen with her portrayal of Penny Lane; groupie extraordinaire who, in her late teens, is already “retired” from the business of sleeping with rock stars. Her love for Russell is, at times, painful to watch and the delicate nature of her fragile heart and mind make her loveable in spite of her questionable “job”. You want things to work out well for her, for someone to protect her and make everything ok. The searing pain in some of the scenes, when she’s rejected by Russell, is so evident in her eyes that you just want to reach out and give her a hug through the screen!
The conclusion of the film, winding up all of the stories and all of the journeys, is very well executed; so fitting, and so nicely done that you’re left with a warm fuzzy feeling about each and everyone of the characters – despite their flaws and mistakes.
At just over 2 hours it’s not a short film, but it is a great film. I have watched it time and time again, and love it more with each viewing.
Here is my (and surely everyone’s) favourite scene of the film. It’s impossible not to sing along.
The fashion is fabulous, the music is super cool, and there’s a great cast, including the aforementioned, as well as Zooey Deschanel, Anna Paquin and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Lester Bangs.