William watches from outside as Lester Bangs is interviewed by a radio station.
Almost Famous offers a candid glance at 1960s rock and roll culture, as experienced firsthand by William (Patrick Fugit): a naïve, wide-eyed 15-year-old with dreams of being a music journalist. William convinces an editor at Rolling Stone magazine that he’s much older than he is, and lands an article covering the up-and-coming band Stillwater. While warned by legendary music critic Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to remain “honest and unmerciful,” William tours alongside the band, soaking in the revelry, and befriending them against Bang’s warning. From his admiration for lead guitarist Russell (Billy Crudup), to his helpless love for groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), William is acquainted with the secrets of Stillwater. With his deadline looming, he must confront his loyalties.
Lester provides mentoring for William and gives him his first break as a writer.
William’s innocence makes for the purest level of music admiration, but his idealism of the industry is bound to be shattered. Growing up with his overbearing and religion-infused mother, Elaine (Frances McDormand), William’s only exposure to rebellion is in his sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel), who left home when he was a boy. But not before leaving him a bin of records with the foreshadowing sentiment that they will “set him free.” Almost Famous is a story of William’s self-discovery—the removal of his rose-tinted glasses. Though throughout Stillwater’s journey to the top, and the startling combination of the danger, humor, and enlightenment that rock and roll has to offer, Williams matures without losing his early romanticism.
William develops a friendship with band groupie Penny Lane.
The real story is in the upsets and battles between band members. Jealousy rages between Russell and his band mates, who see him as stealing the limelight in their mutual quest for stardom. Russell becomes a main character study, and his true personality and passion slowly emerges from his soft yet troubled demeanor. The largest insight into Russell, and William, is the love triangle between them and Penny Lane, a teen groupie (that prefers to be called a “Band Aid”) who travels with a heavy air of confidence and independence. Like William, Penny Lane is tirelessly devoted to rock and roll and Stillwater, and they both face reality during the film’s more emotional moments, where the audience is shown the toll that this lifestyle takes on everyone involved.
The members of the rock band Stillwater.
Almost Famous feels raw and unexaggerated, creating a steady undertone of realism that carries through the film’s direction and acting performances. This is driven by producer Cameron Crowe, who used his own experience as a young music journalist to replicate the reality ingeniously. Crowe’s main brilliance is the way he makes you feel about rock and roll—completely enamored. Music creates and completes the moment: from Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” playing as Anita leaves home, to the whole group’s spontaneous sing-along of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” to break up all tour bus tensions. You’ll wish you were right there in that tour bus, and find yourself smiling in the simple beauty of their shared passion. We’re introduced to allure, glamour, and downfall, but mostly, to the hope that music inspires in people who truly believe in its power.
William and Dick Roswell on the tour bus.
There aren’t a lot of shots of chucks, although several characters, Lester Bangs, young William Miller, and Dick Roswell, are seen wearing them in a few brief scenes. The best shot is while the band is on their tour bus.
Young William Miller.
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