Almost Famous [Retro Review]

“I am a golden god.”

The Scoop: 2000 R, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit

Tagline: Experience it. Enjoy it. Just don’t fall for it.

Summary Capsule: A young rock journalist in love with the music discovers new truths backstage and beyond.

Kyle’s Rating: You’ll walk off to look for America and while you’re out there you’ll look around for the Almost Famous soundtrack

Kyle’s Review: Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s latest masterwork, is apparently based on Crowe’s own experiences in the 1970’s as a (very) young music journalist chronicling the exploits of many famous rock bands. But who cares? Let me just say this about the movie: it’s fantastic. A smart 15-year-old kid is sent by Rolling Stone to be on the road with a rock band and write a cover story on them and shenanigans happen. Go see it. Okay, that frees me up to write at length about myself and other things. Stick around if you’d like, you may enjoy it, but I won’t feel bad if you click your way out of here. Just don’t let me scare you out of checking out this movie, okay? All right, now you may go your own way.

Let me say to those of you who are still here: maybe I misspoke earlier. I don’t know if “fantastic” is the appropriate descriptor for Almost Famous. Could I watch it over and over like I watch Fletch every other night? Probably not. But I don’t believe Almost Famous was made for that. No, like a favorite 70’s song, this movie infiltrates your mind to the point where you’re unknowingly humming your favorite lines in a crowded elevator, then sharing a wink with the only other person in there who knows what you’re thinking of. You won’t need to go through multiple viewings, just one or two or three to get your most beloved riffs programmed in your noggin.

Like for me it’ll take at least two more viewings to get all the Lester Bangs/William Miller interactions stowed away in my brain. Lester (the incredible Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a legendary rock critic (and real-life mentor of Crowe) and a personal hero for young and talented would-be music journalist extraordinaire William (Patrick Fugit), and in fact after they meet Lester assigns the first big writing assignment which will lead William to bigger and (arguably) better things, namely joining up-and-coming rock band Stillwater on their “Almost Famous” tour and learning a thing or two about life and love while trying to complete a Rolling Stone cover story on Stillwater and compete with lead guitar player Russell Hammond (an impressive Billy Crudup) for the affections of infamous not-a-groupie-but-a-Band-Aid Penny Lane (a so-so [in my opinion] Kate Hudson). Oh, and William has an obsessive but loving mother (Frances McDormand) to deal with as well. Those last two sentences of varying length adequately describe the film, by the way. But I went all wordy and got distracted from my point, which is this: to me the best part of Almost Famous for me is the relationship forged between Willam and Lester.

That’s right. The mentor-pupil/close friendship bond that develops between William and Lester is the staple that holds the pages of this film together, and what I found coolest about this movie. The sage advice Lester dispenses over eggs and over the phone when William calls for help is truly fantastic, and I’m hoping someone out there will compile all of Lester’s dialogue and send it to me because I’m too lazy to do it myself. Why is it so great? Because it’s heartfelt and real. Along the way Lester explains: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” I’m uncool, and I can attest that what Lester says is the absolute truth. See how cool the dialogue is? Man, he’s good.

Closing stanza time: Almost Famous is good, even great. It has great dialogue, great set pieces, engaging characters, and an undeniable sense that while the people who make the music may not be pure or unselfish, your own love for the music is pretty incorruptible. Whether you consider yourself a future musician (eh) or a future journalist (woo hoo!), there is something for everyone with this film. If you loved the search for purpose Jerry Maguire underwent, then you will love this film! And if you don’t mind, could you record and later transcribe all the Lester Bangs dialogue, then send it to me? I would greatly appreciate it. Just give me a call anytime, because (in the frightening truthful [especially for me] words of Lester) “I’m always home. I’m uncool.” Thanks!

M-O-O-N, that spells cool!

Intermission!

  • The director’s mother appears in the graduation scene as a teacher handing out diplomas.
  • At the party, when he is on acid, Russell Hammond cries out “I am a Golden God!” This is a reference to Robert Plant of the band Led Zeppelin, who is purported to have said the same thing (sober) while looking over Sunset Strip from a hotel balcony.
  • In the scene where the tour plane hits turbulence, Russell starts to sing “Peggy Sue.” This is in reference to Buddy Holly, who died in a plane crash while on tour.
  • Penny Lane asks William if he’d like to go to Morocco with her. He says, “Yes… ask me again.” According to director Crowe, “ask me again” was Patrick Fugit stepping out of character and asking Kate Hudson to repeat her lines for another take. But Crowe like the take as-is and kept it in the final cut.
  • The old records William looks through at the beginning are actually Cameron Crowe’s, saved from his younger years.
  • The film is director Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical account of life as a young Rolling Stone reporter. The actual group that Crowe first toured with was The Allman Brothers. (Gregg Allman was the one who distrusted him and kept asking if he was a narc.) Crowe’s real-life near-fatal plane crash happened while traveling with The Who. The character of Russell Hammond charcater is based on Glenn Frey of The Eagles.

Groovy Quotes

Lester Bangs: Of course I’m home. I’m always home. I’m uncool.

Lester Bangs: The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

Russell Hammond: I am a golden god!

Russell Hammond: I’m telling secrets to the one guy you don’t tell secrets to.

Dennis Hope: If you think that Mick Jagger will still be doing the whole rock star thing at age fifty, well, then, you are sorely, sorely mistaken.

Penny Lane: I always tell the girls never take it seriously. If you never take it seriously then you never get hurt. If you never get hurt then you always have fun, and if you ever get lonely you can just go to the record store and visit your friends.

William Miller: I have to go home.
Penny Lane: You are home.

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Almost Famous « No Worries

  2. Pingback: Josie and the Pussycats | Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  3. Pingback: Mamma Mia! | Mutant Reviewers

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