keli williams’s review published on Letterboxd:
Cameron Crowe creates a nostalgic atmosphere of the 70’s era and enrols on the failure that rock n’ roll was giving off through the music industry in the year 1973; the breakup of The Beatles, the death of the popular guitarist Jimi Hendrix and The Doors former band member Jim Morrison – along with Janis Joplin and the seclusion of Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd. The music genre that many people adored was going downhill with the many events occurring over the tragic deaths of musicians and the music that was being produced at the time.
Crowe sympathises with the audience on why rock n’ roll should never die, and goes on to express his feelings with a 2 hour and 42-minute-long love letter that sights the aspects the music had on many people all over America. With the genre being so affectionate and close to home for some viewers, the timeless coming-of-age-story doesn’t disappoint with its autobiographical view of the raucous 1970’s.
The audience are first introduced to William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a poignant, and rather funny, fifteen-year-old boy, who has learned throughout his whole life that rock n’ roll was just a topic that involved various devil worships, drugs, sex, and crimes. With a single parent that stood by this judgement, Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand),it’s hard for William to pursue a career that he’s passionate about; without causing a problematic stance between himself and his mother. His sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) is what gives him influence and admiration for a career that wasn’t starved by his mother. By giving him a collection of “tainted” vinyl records before leaving home, the bondage of the LP’s is almost like an understanding and a sign of empathy from his sister, as its clear that she knows what he’s going through and hopes he will relapse in conquering his dreams the same way she did.
As the film carries on, we see William land a path with journalism, with help from music critic Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his hilarious perspective of new-coming bands taking over rock n’ roll. It’s not long until William gets handed an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to interview the upcoming band Stillwater, and with just a few weeks to get it completed, we see the teenager travel on the road with the band and their biggest fan, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).
With Miller’s expectations of the band being high, his confidence starts to lack when the lead guitarist, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), starts putting the interviews off, repeatedly. This starts to build up throughout the rest of the film, eventually causing Miller to lose objectivity (as he integrates himself into their inner circle) when Russell and the lead singer, Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee), start to release tension between themselves.
When the band starts to experience more problems and stress with friendships, promoters, and venues on tour, Penny Lane takes their new acquaintance under her wing.
Penny Lane is the most iconic character in Almost Famous, in my opinion. The blonde beauty is immensely confident in her own skin; her effortlessly charming behaviour and mysterious showcase is what draws most people further into her existence: including William. With her name and age being ‘anonymous’, we find “Penny” involved with the music atmosphere more than anyone in the film. Her enthusiastic mood and flirtatious looks always seem to embark something softer and happier in a room; which Crowe often accompanies with a blissful 70’s song. Lane’s remarks of intelligence and frontal actions, clearly shows that her character has been through a lot; and this is shown further in the picture as secrets, confessions, and kindred’s are spilt.
As the changed atmosphere starts to ponder on everyone, a journey on the road starts to change everything. The Tiny Dancer song is what makes this film. The hatred and the anger that they once appointed themselves with, was gone. Their passion for music was recreated on that bus ride, the words of forgiveness and love was spoken for them by one of their dearest artists, Elton John. A song that spoke truth and struggle in life, related to them in so many ways. And it was beautiful. I’ll never forget the tears in my eyes when every single character endured pleasure and gratitude for a song that spoke so deep with each of them.
As Almost Famous can’t be for everyone, it is everything for me. Cameron Crowe creates a heart-wrenching, beautiful piece of cinema, with an outstanding soundtrack and a magnificent cast. Crowe acknowledges the rock genre for what it really is and while doing so, pleasures an audience with a wide perception of visual longing, heart-break, emotion, and an outcome that will forever be remembered in cinematic history.