It's tempting to dismiss Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical film, "Almost Famous", as yet another nostalgic look at the era of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. But dig a little deeper, and you'll find a funny, touching coming-of-age drama, characterized by deft direction and a lucid grasp of the problems that come with fame and fortune.
William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is a fifteen-year-old who adores rock. His passion begins at eleven, when his sister runs away from home and he inherits her record collection, and grows steadily over the years until he's soon writing incisive articles for the local rag on music and its stars. And when "Rolling Stone" magazine hires him to follow the upcoming band Stillwater, fronted by lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), his excitement knows no bounds.
Befriended by Russell, William is soon accepted into the band's inner circle, travelling with them across the country from one gig to another. Along the way, he meets beautiful "band-aid" Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), who's romantically involved with Russell, and falls in love with her. As the tour progresses, and William learns more and more about the seamy underside of fame, he is forced to choose between being honest to his profession, and protecting the people he loves and idolizes...
A touching coming-of-age tale, "Almost Famous" rests almost entirely on the idealism and naivete of the young William Miller, a boy who suddenly finds himself living his wildest dream. Fugit's performance is convincing in the extreme, and his youthful face is wonderfully expressive at communicating the conflicts and emotions he is experiencing. As the front man for Stillwater, Russell Hammond is selfish, controlling and almost always stoned; despite this, there is something curiously appealing about this young man, and Crudup's performance is worth a look. Special mention must be made of Frances McDormand, who plays William's wonderfully eccentric mother, and Kate Hudson, who steals the show with her portrayal of the sensual, vulnerable Penny Lane.
The direction is also good - Crowe obviously knows his subject matter,, having lived it himself - and the production is faultless, perfectly evoking the era of primary colours, bell-bottoms, faux-fur coats and pot-smoking teenagers. Humourous, stylish, honest, and well-written, this is a movie that deserves your attention.This article was first published on 06 Mar 2001.