US, 2001 122 minutes, Colour.
Billy Cruddup, Frances Mc Dormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Angarano, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jimmy Fallon, Mark Pellington, Rainn Wilson, Peter Frampton.
Directed by Cameron Crowe.
When we feel like wringing our hands and lamenting how lacking in moral perspective the stances of today's society are - and many of us not infrequently feel like this - we take refuge in a comparison with the past, even in invoking 'the good old days'. But how good were they? Or were they not all that different from modern times?
Almost Famous offers an opportunity to make some comparisons. Most of it is set in 1973, the first year of President Nixon's second term, soon to end in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. The 60s and the extraordinary, even revolutionary changes in society's psyche are barely over. The film focuses on the emergence of a rock group, its performances across the States, the groupies and the fans, the generation of the cult of the celebrity, especially by the media and the record industry. Celebrity is definitely here to stay and young music groups still proliferate. The worry of the 70s was the aura of sex and drugs associated with the groups. Where do we stand now?
This film will be of major interest to those in their forties, those who were in their high school days in the 70s and who not only remember the music and the groups but who value them because they were such an important part of their own times. What gives the film a forceful atmosphere and authenticity is that it is a fictionalised autobiography of the writer-director, Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire). It should be said that Crowe's memories tend to be generous and gentle, with a hope that people grow out of their rebellious stages and settle down to positive and creative life as he has. He doesn't shy away from the drugs issues, the promiscuity and even attempted suicides of disillusioned lovelorn fans. But, he wants to say that, yes, this is how it was and, yes, this is how it is. But positive values are still a goal.
Audiences might think that the autobiography is far-fetched: a fifteen year old who has been writing for a rock and roll magazine, Creem, is offered a job by the new Rolling Stone Magazine (they have no idea how young he is) to go on the road with and interview a new band, Stillwater. His college professor mother is aghast and perennially protective. But, William Miller (Crowe's fictional name) is a born observer, a music anorak, a wide-eyed innocent whose learning the ways of the world is accelerated but who responds to the unreal lifestyle with a wisdom and care beyond his years. Newcomer Patrick Fugit makes William completely credible.
Billy Crudup, one of Hollywood's better and more serious young actors, gives his character, the group's guitarist, a complex blend of double standards with ultimately trying to do the right thing. Jason Lee is good as the lead singer and, if you are wondering who Kate Hudson, (as Penny Lane), reminds you of, she is Goldie Hawn's daughter. Frances Mc Dormand is William's mother. A more positive interpretation of a raucous era.
1. A popular film of the 1990s, looking back at music in the 20th century, performance, tours, fans, reporters?
2. 1973, look, costumes, style? Ordinary people, the groups, the fans? On tour, concerts, staging, audiences, the technical aspects?
3. William’s story? Patrick Fugit in the role, as a little boy, relationship with his mother, his sister and her leaving, in class, small, the other students leaving him? His mother, at college, Professor, radical, her desire for him to be a lawyer? At home?
4. William, his aims, age, writing, going to see Lester Banks, their discussion, the commission? The concert for Black Sabbath, his not being allowed in, his attempts, meeting the Stillwater group, praising them?
5. Russell Hammond, Billy Crudup, as a person, musician, in the group? With William, the party? His meeting Penny Lane? Russell and his attraction, her attraction? At the party? Penny, escorting William, the drive?
6. The characterisations of the members of the group, Jeff, Dick, the band, the female groupies, their interactions, the music, sexuality, the parties?
7. The range of music, of the period, performance?
8. Rolling Stone, the editor, contact with William, the phone calls, the commission? William talking up Stillwater? On the road with them? The attempts to get an interview, Russell and his being wary? Penny and her sympathy? The tensions? With the other members of the band, their suspicions because of his being a journalist?
9. Denis, the management, control, the ousting of Penny, going to New York, Leslie and her relationship with Russell? The poker game, the groupies and their personalities? William and his comments about Penny, upset?
10. The tour, searching for Penny, her suicide attempt? Helping?
11. The drama of the flight, the plane, the storm, people revealing their secrets? The insults, William and his love for Penny? The different attitudes on landing?
12. William, his article, sending it to Rolling Stone, the facts? Russell and his denial, his motives, the effect on William?
13. William’s mother, her concern, the phone calls? Anita, the clash with her mother, and later as the flight stewardess, with William going home?
14. Miami, the tour, Sapphire telling Russell? Penny giving Russell William’s address? The confrontation, reconciliation, verifying of the story, the
publication, the interview with Russell, finally? Penny and her decision to go to Morocco?
15. Cameron Crowe’s autobiography, the details, the feel? The importance of the influence of Lester Banks? The editor of Rolling Stone? Writing, politics? Crowe’s decisions and his success, films?