Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Cameron Crowe|
|Produced by||Cameron Crowe
|Written by||Cameron Crowe|
Philip Seymour Hoffman
|Music by||Nancy Wilson|
|Editing by||Joe Hutshing
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures (US)
|Running time||122 minutes
164 minutes (Director's cut)
Almost Famous is a 2000 comedy-drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Cameron Crowe, telling the coming-of-age story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine while on the road with a fictitious 1970s rock band named Stillwater. The film is semi-autobiographical, Crowe himself having been a teenage writer for Rolling Stone.
The film received positive reviews, but failed to break even at the box office. It received four Oscar nominations, with Crowe winning one for best original screenplay. It also earned the 2001 Grammy Award Best Compilation Soundtrack Album. Roger Ebert hailed it the best film of the year.
In 1973 San Diego, California, William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit) is a teenaged aspiring rock journalist. His mother, Elaine (Frances McDormand), a local college professor with a mix of New Age and conservative beliefs, wants him to become a lawyer. Miller writes for local underground papers, sharing a love of rock music instilled in him through a gift of albums given by his sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel), before she left home in disgust over Elaine's "house of lies."
William has sent rock journalist Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) copies of his work, and Bangs gives William a $35 assignment to review a Black Sabbath concert. Bangs advises William not to befriend rock stars, and to be "honest and unmerciful" in his reviews. Without credentials, William cannot get backstage to the San Diego Sports Arena where the concert is taking place. Outside, he meets a few local groupies who call themselves "Band-Aids", led by a young woman named Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). He also meets the opening band, Stillwater. They bring William backstage after he expresses admiration for their work. The guitarist, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), takes a liking to William.
William and Penny go to Hollywood to see Stillwater again. Penny serves as William's chauffeur, but her real aim is to get close to Russell, for whom she has feelings and shares a past relationship. William is called by Ben Fong-Torres, editor of Rolling Stone, who wants William to write a story for the magazine. Ben, who does not realize that he is talking to a teenager, sends William on the road to write about Stillwater.
William goes on tour with Stillwater and the Band-Aids, promising to keep in contact with his worried mother. As a journalist, the band refers to William as "the enemy", but they befriend him anyway, although Russell puts off giving William an interview. Russell receives an electric shock onstage in Phoenix, which infuriates their manager, Dick Roswell, causing them to abandon the show. In Topeka, Kansas, a new merchandise t-shirt for Stillwater showing Russell clearly in focus with the rest of the band comparatively out of focus and shadowed sparks an intense argument between lead singer Jeff and Russell. Russell and William then leave the area, going to a teenage house party so Russell can be with people who are "real". Tripping on LSD, Russell climbs onto the roof, screaming "I am a golden god!" and instructing William to write that his last words were "I'm on drugs!" before jumping into the pool. During the tour, William forms a strong bond with Penny, to the point that they frequently discuss running away to Morocco together, but he does not have sex with her — he instead loses his virginity to the other Band-Aids.
The band continues with its tour and before one of the band's concerts, William speaks with his very worried mother on the phone. Russell intervenes, snatching the phone from William and talking to Elaine. During the conversation, Elaine unwittingly reveals William's true age and her plans for him to attend law school. A new manager, Dennis, is hired and insists that the band travel by plane instead of by bus. In Boston during a poker game, it becomes clear that Penny must leave the tour before New York City, where Leslie, Russell's wife, will join the tour. During the game, Russell allows Dick to sell the Band Aids to Humble Pie for $50 and a case of Heineken. When William tells Penny, she acts nonchalant but is devastated. Penny travels to New York, showing up as the band gathers in a restaurant with Leslie. As they celebrate making the cover of Rolling Stone, Penny leaves as Leslie grows suspicious. William follows Penny to her hotel room, finding her overdosed on quaaludes. While trying to keep her awake he confesses he loves her and kisses her just before doctors arrive. Later, Penny reveals her real name to him, a secret she has told very few. Penny thanks William for saving her before returning home to San Diego. William stays with the band for the end of the stop in New York and then they all board their plane to fly home.
Stillwater's plane is caught in a thunderstorm and loses altitude. With death apparently imminent, the band members confess their secrets, which provokes a series of quarrels, and Penny is then referred to by several in the band as "that groupie". William angrily defends Penny, reminding the band that they declared they were "in this for the fans", and Penny was their most adoring one. The plane emerges from the storm unharmed, leaving the band to ponder the changed atmosphere. William continues to San Francisco to finish the story, parting ways with the band. Russell tells him to write whatever he wants. William submits an article, but the Rolling Stone editors dismiss it as a "puff piece". During a late-night call, Bangs advises William to be "honest and unmerciful". William rewrites the article, telling the truth. The Rolling Stone editors are eager to publish it until the fact checker reports that the band has denied everything, making William look like a liar, and the story is dropped. Sitting dejected in the airport, William encounters his sister. Now a stewardess, she offers to take him anywhere; William chooses to return home, where he forces his mom and Anita to make up.
Russell calls Penny for her address so they can talk in person. Russell goes to the address she gave him, but it turns out to be William's house. Russell and William reconcile, and Russell reveals that he called Rolling Stone to tell them William's story was true. Russell finally gives William an interview. The film ends with William's article being published as the cover story of Rolling Stone, Stillwater touring by bus, William sharing a meal with Elaine and Anita, and Penny buying a ticket to Morocco, where they originally planned to go together.
- Patrick Fugit as William Miller
- Michael Angarano as Young William
- Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond
- Frances McDormand as Elaine Miller
- Kate Hudson as Penny Lane
- Jason Lee as Jeff Bebe
- Zooey Deschanel as Anita Miller
- Anna Paquin as Polexia Aphrodisia
- Fairuza Balk as Sapphire
- Bijou Phillips as Estrella Starr
- Noah Taylor as Dick Roswell
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs
- Terry Chen as Ben Fong-Torres
- Jay Baruchel as Vic Munoz
- Jimmy Fallon as Dennis Hope
- Rainn Wilson as David Felton
- Mark Kozelek as Larry Fellows
- Liz Stauber as Leslie Hammond
- John Fedevich as Ed Vallencourt
- Eric Stonestreet as Sheldon the Desk Clerk
|This section requires expansion. (January 2012)|
The film is based on Crowe's experiences touring with rock bands Poco, The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In a Rolling Stone article, he talks about how he lost his virginity, fell in love, and met his heroes, experiences that are shared by William, the main character in the film.
Following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman in February 2014, Crowe blogged about the last telephone scene between Fugit and Hoffman, a late-night scene where William calls Lester Bangs for advice during his all-night push to rewrite the article for Rolling Stone. According to Crowe:
My original take on this scene was a loud, late night pronouncement from Lester Bangs. A call to arms. In Phil’s hands it became ... a scene about quiet truths shared between two guys, both at the crossroads, both hurting, and both up too late. It became the soul of the movie.... [Phil] leapt over the words and the script, and gone hunting for the soul and compassion of the private Lester, the one only a few of us had ever met.
Crowe compiled an alternate version of the film for home video called Almost Famous: Untitled, which was a compilation of both released footage and his favorite deleted scenes. It runs for about 40 minutes longer than the theatrical release and was subtitled "The Bootleg Cut".
The film's soundtrack, produced by Danny Bramson and Crowe, won a Grammy Award. It consists mostly of songs from the period the film is set in, accompanied by original Stillwater songs written by Nancy Wilson, Crowe's wife.
Almost Famous had its premiere at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival. It was subsequently given a limited release on September 15, 2000 in 131 theaters where it grossed US $2.3 million on its first weekend. It was given a wider release on September 22, 2000 in 1,193 theaters where it grossed US $6.9 million on its opening weekend. The film went on to make US $32.5 million in North America and US $14.8 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of US $47,383,689, well below its US $60 million budget.
Almost Famous was very well received by critics, who gave it predominantly positive reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and praised it for being "funny and touching in so many different ways". In his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott wrote, "The movie's real pleasures are to be found not in its story but in its profusion of funny, offbeat scenes. It's the kind of picture that invites you to go back and savor your favorite moments like choice album cuts".
Time magazine's Richard Corliss praised the film's screenplay for "giving each character his reasons, making everyone in the emotional debate charming and compelling, creating fictional people who breathe in a story with an organic life". In her review for the L.A. Weekly, Manohla Dargis wrote that "the film shimmers with the irresistible pleasures that define Hollywood at its best - it's polished like glass, funny, knowing and bright, and filled with characters whose lives are invariably sexier and more purposeful than our own". Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "Not since A Hard Day's Night has a movie caught the thrumming exuberance of going where the music takes you". In his review for Newsweek, David Ansen wrote, "Character-driven, it relies on chemistry, camaraderie, a sharp eye for detail and good casting". Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Every Cameron Crowe film is, in one way or another, about romance, rock & roll, and his romance with rock & roll. This power ballad of a movie, from 2000, also happens to be Crowe's greatest (and most personal) film thanks to the golden gods of Stillwater and their biggest fan, Kate Hudson's incomparable Penny Lane."
Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating and Owen Gleiberman praised Crowe for depicting the 1970s as "an era that found its purpose in having no purpose. Crowe, staying close to his memories, has gotten it, for perhaps the first time, onto the screen". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan praised Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of Lester Bangs: "Superbly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, more and more the most gifted and inspired character actor working in film, what could have been the cliched portrait of an older mentor who speaks the straight truth blossoms into a marvelous personality". However, in his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris felt that "none of the non-musical components on the screen matched the excitement of the music. For whatever reason, too much of the dark side has been left out". Desson Howe, in his review for the Washington Post, found it "very hard to see these long-haired kids as products of the 1970s instead of dressed up actors from the Seattle-Starbucks era. I couldn't help wondering how many of these performers had to buy a CD copy of the song and study it for the first time". Paste Magazine named it one of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000–2009), ranking it at number 3.
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- Sarris, Andrew (September 17, 2000). "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll-Where Are the Sex and Drugs?". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Howe, Desson (September 22, 2000). "Almost Poignant". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- "The 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000-2009)". Paste Magazine. November 3, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
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