Take a Drink: every time you hear a great song
Take a Drink: for the Golden God!
Do a Shot: every time Russell blows off William
Finish your Drink: for the love of music
By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
Do you remember when Cameron Crowe was good? Probably not; however, at one time in the mid 90’s and early 2000’s he made a couple of great films. One of these films was Jerry Maguire, and the other was Almost Famous. The latter is by far the best of his films. Unfortunately his movies have become almost a joke. Well, let’s go back to a time when Cameron Crowe was great.
William Miller (Played by a baby-faced Patrick Fugit) is your typical boy, except his mom (Played by the always charming Frances McDormand) is loving yet unbearably controlling. She skips him two grades in school without telling him, and she chases her daughter out of the house, but before she leaves she gives William her record collection of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Who, and Led Zeppelin, beginning his love for Rock & Roll and his dream to be a Rock Journalist. He ends up meeting one of his idols, Lester Bangs (played by the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman), who gives him a writing assignment on Black Sabbath to see what William can do.
He goes to the concert and has a little trouble getting in, but meets Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) who calls herself a band-aid, not a groupie. They go along for the love of the music, not the sex. With her help and the luck of the band Stillwater being late for their concert, William gets into the concert and interviews Stillwater and sends his article to Lester. He gives it to editors at Rolling Stone Magazine, who offer William a job to follow Stillwater on their tour.
The writing is great; Crowe has the ability to inject quick wit and hilarity into any scene. Even in scenes that are supposed to be serious, like when the band is having an argument about their first T-Shirt for the band, the writing keeps the scene light so the movie doesn’t keep flipping between drama and comedy. Some movies can’t figure out whether they’re a comedy or drama, but Crowe’s writing ability is able to keep the film on point and is never distracting, but rather enthralling.
The characters are all really likable. I think it’s an ode to the script, but all the characters are pleasant to spend a couple of hours with. It’d be very easy to write William’s mother as completely horrible and overbearing, but she remains likable through the film, as does her daughter with whom she feuds. I can’t think of a film off the top of my head where every character in the movie is, well, likable.
All the characters are likable not only because of the writing but because of the wonderful casting. It feels like every actor was hand-picked by Crowe, even the very minor characters. I heard that Brad Pitt was the first choice to play Russell Hammond (Lead guitarist for Stillwater) ,but he didn’t understand the role so it went to Billy Crudup. Good thing too, as I don’t think Pitt would’ve been able to pull off the complexity of Hammond like Crudup did.
Lastly, what makes this film great, of course, is the music. The average music budget for a film is around 1 million dollars but Crowe’s budget for Almost Famous was almost 3 million dollars. When you make a film that’s basically an ode to classic rock you’ve got to do it right. I imagine a pretty penny of that budget went to getting rights to some Led Zeppelin songs. Led Zeppelin refused for a long time to let anyone use their music in anything. I think they realized that this movie wasn’t intending on exploiting anything, but rather honoring the great music of their genre. Classic rock is one of the greatest genres of music, and this film pays homage to it and its greats.
Just remember only Pete Townshend can explain classic rock.
This film is a rare gem. Yeah it’s a love story, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an ode to classic rock, it’s a coming of age story, and it’s a character study. I love classic rock and I love the 70’s, and this film pays heed to both perfectly. I hope one day Crowe will get back to his old form but until then you can enjoy this film and learn what great music sounds like.
“I am a Golden God!”