Cameron Crowe has finally filmed his passion. The director of “Singles” and “Jerry Maguire” has tapped into his own past when (as a geeky, stuttering fifteen-year-old) he began writing for “Creem” and “Rolling Stone” in an era when rock ‘n’ roll was laden with meaning and boy-bands wouldn’t have been allowed to breathe. Crowe has fashioned his experience into a pop-culture take on growing up through his story about a rock-obsessed teen, William Miller (Patrick Fugit), who is given a flying start to his career as a rock writer when asked to go on tour with Stillwater (longhairs whose looks and music are a hybrid of The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd). As the band twigs that William’s love of all things rock, and his worship of the band, mean that he won’t crucify them in print, they feed William smart remarks which make them (the band) sound great. And so the spirit of “Spinal Tap” lives on.

However, humour is capably matched by more serious perceptiveness, and the fun in watching William’s nice-boy decency (as he collects the laundry of three groupies who have just lured him to bed) is mixed in with the sometimes poignant reality of growing up. As the repressive world of parents (symbolised by an ever-anxious Frances McDormand) stands in contrast to the me-first universe of rock stars (when they rattle on about political change what they really want is girls, lots of them) big-screen newcomer Patrick Fugit and Goldie Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson (playing a groupie) turn in sensitive, finely-nuanced performances of low-key power. Even though the same points are made more than once, they are never less than entertaining, while Crowe resists the lazy route of plastering the soundtrack with 70s rock hits.

Visit the official “Almost Famous” website.

Read an interview with Kate Hudson.

End Credits

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Stars: Patrick FugitKate HudsonBilly CrudupFrances McDormandPhilip Seymour HoffmanJason LeeAnna PaquinNoah Taylor

Writer and director Cameron Crowe’s experiences as a teenage rock journalist — he was a regular contributor to Rolling Stone while still in high school — inspired this coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old boy hitting the road with an up-and-coming rock band in the early 1970s. Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand) is a bright, loving, but strict single parent whose distrust of rock music and fears about drug use have helped to drive a wedge between herself and her two children, Anita (Zooey Deschanel) and William (Patrick Fugit). Anita rebels by dropping out of school and becoming a stewardess, but William makes something of his love of rock & roll by writing album reviews for a local underground newspaper. William’s work attracts the attention of Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), editor of renegade rock magazine Creem, who takes William under his wing and gives him his first professional writing assignment — covering a Black Sabbath concert. While William is unable to score an interview with the headliners, the opening act, Stillwater, are more than happy to chat with a reporter, even if he’s still too young to drive, and William’s piece on the group in Creem gains him a new admirer in Ben Fong-Torres (Terry Chen), an editor at Rolling Stone. Torres offers William an assignment for a 3,000-word cover story on Stillwater, and over the objections of his mother (whose parting words are “Don’t use drugs!”), and after some stern advice from Bangs (who says under no circumstances should he become friends with a band he’s covering), Williams joins Stillwater on tour, where he becomes friendly with guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee). William also becomes enamored of Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), a groupie traveling with the band who is no older than William, but is deeply involved with Russell. Lester Bangs and Ben Fong-Torres, incidentally, were real-life rock writers Crowe worked with closely during his days as a journalist. Almost Famous’ original score was composed by Nancy Wilson of Heart (who is also Crowe’s wife).

 

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