Last night I finally got around to watching Almost Famous. It was nearly an ordeal to force myself to sit down and watch it. You know those films you have to see, and you know your gonna like, but it’s always easier to opt for some mid-numbing toilet television. Well Im glad to say I can mark off my list of “must-see films” and add it to my “wish I lived in the seventies films” and my “it’s like they’re talking about my life films”. It also definitely makes its way into “favourite films”.
A few months ago I wrote about how I felt John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity could have been based on me, note the lists in the first paragraph. If High Fidelity was realistic Almost Famous was idealistic. Teenager William (Patrick Fugit) whose passion lies in music and journalism gets the opportunity to travel with ‘Stillwater’, an up and coming rock and roll band, and document his experiences for Rolling Stone magazine. Unsurprisingly he is confronted by the issues of sex, drugs, love, fame and unrest in this compelling portrait of a shy, charming young reporter.
Directed by Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous is considered semi-autobiographical as Crowe draws parallels with his own experiences as a teen reporter touring with the likes of Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The films greatest asset is Crowe’s portrayal of relationships. The film moulds itself around William’s relationships with his mother(Frances McDormand), guitarist Russell Hammond(Billy Crudup) and “Band-Aid” Penny Lane(Kate Husdon). Equally central to the story is the love/lust relationship of Russell and Penny and the constant tension between Hammond and band frontman Jeff.
Despite being nicknamed “The Enemy”, William’s youthful appearance and timid nature endear him to the band, in particular Hammond. While William admires the charismatic guitarist, his infatuation with Penny insures a constant underbelly of resentment. Penny herself personifies the reckless and impulsive teenage rocker, apparently content to be a mere groupie but constantly struggling with aspirations to be more. Her refusal to accept the “real world” hits a cul-de-sac when the real world is forced upon her.
Without question my favourite scene is the “Tiny-Dancer” moment(below). The scene encompasses the essence of the film. In the aftermath of a row between Jeff and Russell the latter takes William to a house party to reconnect with “reality”. After taking acid, almost drowning and resisting going back on tour Russell is finally forced back on the bus. Tension is rife, nobody is speaking to each other. Elton John’s classic “Tiny-Dancer” is all that breaks the silence. Sub-consciously all aboard the bus begin to nod and tap to the beat of this undeniably catchy tune. Only when usually muted bassist Ed Vallencourt begins to sing along do the others realise that the song has captured everyone’s full attention. By the time the chorus hits even Hammond is singing. In a matter of seconds these people who appeared so divided were unified by a shared love of music, it seems to serve as a reminder of why they are there in the first place.