Almost Famous is one of those rare movies that captivates you and makes you care for the characters so much that you feel sad when the end credits roll over the screen. I'd even go so far as to say that this is one of my twenty favorite movies of all time, with the wonderful atmosphere, intriguing characters and perfect script all working together to make a movie that should have gotten every award that a movie can win.
William Miller is a boy with a dream: he wants to become a writer. And not just any type of writer, he wants to become a music journalist. William's hero Lester Bangs, one of the most notorious Rock journo's in America, tells William to give up his dream. It's a lousy job, he says, and a young guy like William runs the risk of being used by the seasoned rock stars that he so much wants to write about. Still, William is not one to give up, and he gets the chance of a lifetime when he is able to persuade Rolling Stone Magazine to hire him to write a big article on up and coming rock group Stillwater. William goes on tour with them, and, against the advice of Bangs, even becomes friends with him. As you can understand, this has to backfire, because William wants to write an honest piece and Stillwater just wants to be hyped up so their profile will rise. In this and many other ways, touring with Stillwater turns William from a boy into a man, and the movie is as much a coming of age story as a movie about the trials and tribulations of musicians trying to become famous.
This is what makes Almost Famous so wonderful to watch. The viewer grows up, together with William, who goes from a wide eyed fan to a desillusioned veteran. He wants to help Stillwater break through with the piece he is writing, but the band is so caught up in back-stabbing and clawing their way to the top, that William only becomes another obstacle on the way to success. Still, the tour is an amazing experience for William. He not only meets the band and many of their more famous peers from the rock-scene, but he also gets a first hand look at the groupie scene. A pack of female groupies, excuse me, band-aides, travels with Stillwater and the ladies do their own share in helping William grow up. It's all in a free spirit, and against his mother's wishes, he even falls in love with one of the girls.
Well, you can't really blame William, because how can you not love Ms. Penny Lane, a flamboyant young lady that likes and helps William, but who also has some problems of her own. Even though she does not want to admit it, she is madly in love with Stillwater's singer, Russell Hammond. Hammond digs this, and uses Penny Lane whenever he feels like it, even though he has a girlfriend waiting at home. William sees this, but there is nothing he can do about it. He would like to show Penny Lane he loves her, but hey, he's a serious music journalist trying to make a name for himself...
Almost Famous shines from the very first second. Crowe is fully successful in establishing the mood of the period (the movie plays in the 70's) and makes the viewer take a wonderful journey together with main character William. William watches in wonder at everything happening around him, and so will you. You can feel his amazement and this movie is filled with so many memorable characters that it's impossible to pick a favorite. All the actors do a great job. Fugit is perfect as William, growing up a lot quicker than his mom would like, while Kate Hudson is equally great as Penny Lane. She is the wrong girl to fall in love with, but she is so filled with energy that you can easily forgive William for doing so. All the band members are chosen perfectly as well. Crudup is a stand out in his role of egotistical but confused Russell, while the other band members do their best to give the group a mild Spinal Tap vibe. Indeed, at times it almost feels like William is really travelling with Spinal Tap, the scene in the plane at the end of the movie being most memorable. And It's something you can keep repeating, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman is once again a scene stealer as worn out veteran Lester Bangs.
When Almost Famous came out in cinemas, it was not very successful. Lately it has luckily been recognized as the masterpiece that it truly is.