Almost Famous (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

StarStarStarStarStar
Review byMatthew Turner05/02/2001

5 out of 5 stars
Running time: 123 mins

Hugely enjoyable coming-of-age feel-good drama with a top-notch cast and a cracking soundtrack - destined to be one of the year’s best movies.

Writer-director Cameron Crowe’s (Jerry Maguire) semi-autobiographical new film is set in the early 1970s and centres on 15 year-old William Miller as Crowe’s surrogate self. When his sister (stunning newcomer Zooey Deschanel) leaves home, she bequeaths him her record collection and ignites a passionate love of rock and roll which leads him into writing about music for underground magazines.

With the help and advice of influential rock critic Lester Bangs (indie favourite Philip Seymour Hoffman), William lands his first assignment as a rock journalist with Rolling Stone Magazine at the age of 15, covering the tour of fictional band Stillwater, much to the annoyance of his over-protective mother (a scene-stealing Frances McDormand).

However, once on the road, William has to struggle to obey Lester’s cardinal rule of not befriending the band, as he finds himself increasingly involved with both lead guitarist Russell Hammond (rising star Billy Crudup, himself (‘almost famous’) and self-styled ‘band-aid’ (i.e groupie) Penny Lane (Kate Hudson – daughter of Goldie Hawn).

The acting, by a terrific cast that also includes Noah Taylor, Fairuza Balk and Anna Paquin is superb - indeed, the entire cast were recently nominated for an ensemble acting award by the Screen Actor’s Guild. In particular, Crudup and Jason Lee (as lead singer Jeff Bebe) perfectly convey both the emotional highs and the petty jealousies and frustrations within the band, with only the merest hint of a Spinal Tap-moment (during the hilarious band t-shirt scene).

Similarly, both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Frances McDormand deliver the kind of top-notch support we’ve come to expect from them. It’s Patrick Fugit who’s the real find, however, delivering a sweet-natured performance that’s never less than believable.

There are several terrific scenes in the film. Highlights include the afore-mentioned t-shirt scene; Russell stoned and yelling "I am a Golden God!" from the roof of a suburban party; McDormand loudly telling Patrick "Don’t take drugs!" as he’s about to cover a Black Sabbath concert; a predictable-but-hilarious confession scene aboard a storm-tossed airplane; and pretty much any scene involving Hoffman.

There are a couple of hindsight gags too, which although lazy ("If you think Mick Jagger is going to be fooling around pretending to be a rock star at age 50, you are very much mistaken!"), still manage to raise the required laugh. It’s clear that a rose-tinted dose of nostalgia is Crowe’s primary concern here, and as such it’s easy to forgive the film’s lack of any kind of darker edge.

Ultimately, Crowe conveys the sheer joy of being passionate about music when you’re young, and anyone over 30 will get an extra kick out of the excellent soundtrack.

Finally, having already picked up two Golden Globes (for Best Film and for Kate Hudson as Best Supporting Actress), this is almost certain to be Oscar-nominated on the 13th. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/11/2017 21:44

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