Almost Famous (2000) stars Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Zooey Deschanel, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jimmy Fallon. Written, directed and co-produced by Cameron Crowe. Co-produced by Ian Bryce and Lisa Stewart. The film is based partially off Crowe’s own experience writing as an interviewer for Rolling Stone magazine. Crowe had toured with the Allman Brothers Band, the Eagles, the Who and others. A couple of scenes in the film are inspired by problems he faced touring with them.
Throughout the film, William (Fugit) is torn between two opposite extremes: the well-meaning but overly cautious responses from his mother (McDormand), which she submits over the phone and by paper, and the recklessness of the band he’s touring with: Stillwater. Rather than being able to enjoy his trip with the band, he finds himself more and more alienated by them, developing an interest in a girl named Penny Lane (Hudson) all the while.
As a screenwriter, Crowe depicts the ugly moments on tour beautifully. In total, I wrote down more than 60 lines which I considered pivotal to the film or great at depicting a character—and there are many more lines I didn’t have time to write down. Two of the most memorable lines are Creem writer Lester Bangs (Hoffman) telling William (Fugit) that the rocks stars will “offer you things, but they’re not your friends,” and to be “honest and unmerciful.” These lines sound even greater when Hoffman and Fugit bring their best performances to the table; you don’t see Hoffman warning Fugit; you see Bangs warning William.
Every actor is amazing. There isn’t one bad performance in the film. Not once did I see the actors; only the characters. Fugit isn’t Fugit; he’s a 15-year-old in 1973 who has a deep interest in rock ‘n’ roll and wants to interview the people behind the music. Lee convinces viewers that he is, indeed, the lead singer of a rock band. He has all of the energy of a front man, and his anger is convincing when he gets momentarily left behind by the tour bus, and later on, when his image is blurred on a t-shirt design. Hedonistic and willfully looking away from the consequences of his actions, Russell (Crudup) is constantly upbeat and smiling. Though he sometimes lets loose and expresses his anger, his frequent, oblivious, sincere grinning makes clear that he’s a careless, cheerful guy. Even Fallon, who plays their tour manager, is a far cry from the friendly, cute-faced The Tonight Show host the world has come to know him as. He’s demanding and gets what he wants, but he doesn’t have to fight for it. .
I do have a few minor gripes with the film; if you’re watching Almost Famous on DVD, mute the volume and look away for a minute or two after you see the Dreamworks logo—several scenes are shown before the menu arrives, and this is a film you should go into knowing relatively little. There are one or two inconsistencies with release dates as well. Still, these moments are few and far between, and can be overlooked when considering where the film excels, especially considering its many great scenes.
Though Almost Famous is a script and character driven film, it isn’t without its clever edits. After William(Fugit), Penny (Hudson) and Stillwater sing Elton John’s Tiny Dancer on the band’s tour bus, the film cuts to Elaine (McDorman), who is too distracted by the absence of her son to teach. She says one of the film’s most memorable lines, (which I won’t spoil here,) and the difference in mood couldn’t be more obvious. The brief montage that is the film’s ending ties everything together perfectly, ending on a magnificent tone that doesn’t feel tacked on or forced.
I could go on about the film’s many other memorable scenes and its great use of classic rock, but this is a work of art you should see for yourself. Watch it as soon as you can. You can rent it free in the Mason Library.
Cal Sylvia can be contacted at