Exeposé Screen online (4 February 2014)
For aspiring journalists, dreamy-eyed guzzlers of 60s and 70s rock and roll, or simply those advertising a vacancy for a feel-good Sunday-afternoon escape from deadlines, Almost Famous ticks all the right boxes.
In a semi-autobiographical account of his own experiences as a teenage rock journalist, Cameron Crowe’s 2000 Academy Award winner presents William Miller (Michael Angarano), a young boy growing up in 1970s San Diego.
Acting like a buffer between his overbearing mother (Frances McDormand) and wayward sister (Zooey Deschanel), William is secretly left his sister’s record collection as she leaves home to become a stewardess.
Enthralled by records his mother distrusts and forbids, we re-join William at age 16, now heavily engrossed in rock journalism. After interviewing the band Stillwater, William (Patrick Fugit) is plunged into the exhilarating yet dangerous life of a rock and roll band, joining Stillwater on tour in order to cover the band for Rolling Stone magazine.
A coming-of-age story, Almost Famous illustrates the struggle to realise dreams and make it big, and the heartache involved.
Falling for professed Band-Aide Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), William confronts personal jealousies alongside realisations of dishonesty and self-delusion in others.
Forced to mature rapidly, we cheer inwardly as William begins to stand up for his own moral beliefs. The film blends humour and sentimentality: standing on a roof at a party, guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) evokes carefree rock and roll spirit, declaring his last words to be ‘I’m on drugs!’
However, arguably the film’s most beautiful scene, an impromptu rendition of Elton John’s Tiny Dancer on the Stillwater tour bus, encapsulates the mutual love of music ultimately holding the band together.
Almost Famous combines an incredible soundtrack with touching humour and subtle, unaffected performances to create a surprising heart-warming portrayal of sex, drugs and rock and roll.