Friday, December 04, 2009

Film Decade List #16: Almost Famous (2000)

Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, USA, 2000)

Even though over time, the syrupy sentimentality Almost Famous sprouts at times becomes cloying, the fact that there is a true love about its subject is what makes it work. More than anything, this is love letter to rock & roll, and more specifically Crowe's youth, and I can't say I don't feel the same way about rock & roll that William Miller does. The plot revolves around William, a teenage aspiring rock writer as he cons his way into doing a Rolling Stone profile of an up-and-coming band named Stillwater. In the course of getting his story, he gets a head-first trip into the backstage world of rock & roll, including befriending a groupie, or Band Aid, played by Kate Hudson. The film isn't so much concerned with the actual workings of a rock band but more using them as elements in crafting William's own coming of age story. Of course stories like that border into schmaltz and there are a few moments where Crowe, who is never afraid of going for sentimentality in scenes, attempts to derail the film. It never really happens because everything else is so good, especially to those like myself who could see themselves in the character of William. The performances of Patrick Fugit and Hudson (who has seemingly never made a good film since) are serviceable but it's the supporting performances that work. Jason Lee and Billy Crudup work well as the egotistical, bickering leaders of Stillwater and Crudup goes a little further to become someone who can trust and has an interest in William. The scene stealer here is Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, channeling all the sarcasm and sincerity that Bangs showed in his writing. His moments with William are great moments that tell a lot about what rock & roll was in the 1970s and what rock journalism used to mean in those days. It's told so well because Crowe was there. Almost Famous clearly shows a filmmaker telling a story he truly wanted to tell and nailing what a force music can be in some people's lives.

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