Almost Famous (2000)

ALMOST FAMOUS is another relentlessly agreeable "dramedy" from JER-
RY MAGUIRE creator Cameron Crowe, who again wrote and directed this 
sunny Seventies memoir about a 15 year-old aspiring rock journalist 
(Patrick Fugit) and his adventures on the road, on first assignment 
for "Rolling Stone."  The kid's also a high-school student who nor-
mally lives at home with his pop culture-disowning mother (Francis 
McDormand).  More on her later.  With 3000 words to write about 
"Stillwater," a fictional act created for the film, the awkwardly 
savvy kid spends several wide-eyed days with the shaggy band guys  
and their bouncy, teenage groupies.  (As the film *is* set in the 
Seventies, expect both freaky fashions and a facial hair-apalooza.)  
There's young love to be blossomed, virginity to be lost, and an 
endless series of messages from Mom, always repeating her hilarious 
catchphrase:  "Don't take drugs!"  (The funniest reaction to that 
phrase is a hotel dude who admits "she freaked me out.")  The kid, 
smart, neither samples any, uh, controlling substances, nor does he 
(repeatedly) dabble in the freely available love.  Instead, he du-
tifully sits on the sidelines, recording the various on- and off-
stage developments, such as the increasing tension within the band.  
Will the tour come to a halt before the kid can finish his article?  
Will the kid profess love to Kate Hudson's adorable groupie?  Will 
the groupie's inevitable rejection hurt, really hurt, or drive the 
wee man to drink, even though the film's gentle tone suggests that 
said beverage would most likely be an Orange Crush?

Modeled after the filmmaker himself-- who had his own young adven-
tures traveling with the Allman Brothers Band-- the kid is a great 
character.  And he's played by a great actor.  Newcomer Fugit is a 
face that's as bright, open, and honest as the screen has seen in 
years.  He's also the perfect foil to Hudson, Goldie Hawn's daugh-
ter, and the film's other remarkable young presence.  She practic-
ally *glows* in her scenes, radiating as much honest innocence as 
Fugit, though with a sadder, wiser taint.  (Another stunning fresh 
face is Zooey Deschanel as the young man's older sister.  My, what 
wonderfully inviting eyes you have!)  Phillip Seymour Hoffman also 
appears as legendary "Creem" critic Lester Bangs and mentor to the 
budding writer.  Disguised behind moustache, 'burns, and floppy 
mop-top, his character overfloweth with such sagely wisdom as "be 
honest and unmerciful," "friendship is booze," and, of course, "you 
will get free records from the record companies."  During one of 
their many delightfully droll exchanges, the Bangster even hazards 
a theory on the origins of Great Art!  [ Insert collective round of 
applause from the legions of the world's un-coolest. ]  

Billy Crudup (WITHOUT LIMITS) and Jason Lee (MUMFORD) play two of 
the band members.  They and the rest of "Stillwater" are introduced 
as tertiary characters, but get upgraded to secondary and, finally, 
near-primary status.  Crudup, as the dissatisfied lead guitarist, 
gets the most coverage.  His character forms a friendship with the 
kid, complicating the lad's feelings for a certain groupie, 'cause 
*she* prefers the company of the Axe Man.  (And if you don't know 
the term "axe", man, this is *definitely* not the film for you!)  
Herein also lies the feature's most noticeable flaw, other than the 
oddly under-whelming soundtrack.  (Frankly, there just ain't enough 
music.  Another ten or so snippets are needed, methinks.  And since 
you asked, something preferably harder than that Elton John wuss 
rock...)  Crowe's glaring-est mistake is his inclusion of so many 
"band scenes."  Frankly, the characters just ain't that interest-
ing.  Period.  They're neither edgy, wacky, scary, nor even inspir-
ing.  Nor are the actors who *portray* them particularly appealing.  
They're just *there*.  Earnest and kinda dull.  Maybe the roles ne-
eded to be played by *real* rock stars.  You know, people we both 
recognize and have some established feelings for.  Hell, I'd even 
settle for a member or two of Spinal Tap.  And, really, what's a 
good rock-movie review without their obligatory mention?  (Rated 
"R"/122 min.)
Grade: B+

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Don't Take Drugs!

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros