Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup
MPAA: Rated R (Language / Brief Nudity / Drug Use)
Almost Famous is the fictionalized account of the director's meager beginnings as a music journalist in the early '70s. Patrick Fugit plays William Miller, 15 year old student, aspiring rock reporter, and complete dweeb. Hunter S. Thompson he is not. Luckily, his writing and his determination are enough to interest those at Rolling Stone Magazine, and he is given his first official assignment; to go on the road with a band called Stillwater, and report his experiences.
William has no idea what lies in store for him, and, with his over-protective mother, played wonderfully by Frances McDormand, tracking his every move, he begins his journey.
Essentially a lighthearted coming-of-age drama, William's travels with Stillwater are depicted very much like a rock & roll version of the television series The Wonder Years. No one could possibly be more out of step with the rock star world as William is, and while that fish-out-of-water plotline may not be the most original of premises, the most amusing and heartfelt scenes are those in which the nerdy reporter comes to grips with the fact that these really cool people seem to like him. As he learns more about the members of the band, and who they are, not as rock stars, but as people, he learns more about himself as well.
The standout performance in the film was by McDormand, as the eccentric mother any child would be more than happy to leave home to get away from. She creates one of the most memorable and realistic characters in the film. The rest of the cast also turn in good, believable performances.
The only part of this movie that doesn't quite work is the ending. Without giving anything away, there is a dramatic turn of events that William must face in order to prove to the audience that he is now a responsible adult, not the geeky little kid from the beginning of the film. This sequence and its outcome, as well as the closing scenes, seemed forced, and the darker, more serious tone breaks completely from the feel-good spirit of the rest of the movie. However, that in itself won't stop me from recommending this film. I'm a stickler when it comes to well thought out endings, which means that if I'm not completely happy with one, you can bet that I'll include that in my review.
So, while it's not perfect, Almost Famous is a very enjoyable movie. It has some laughs, some tears, and some good tunes. Not a bad way to spend two hours!
November 5, 2000
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A.J.'s Rating: 3.5 Rolling Stones - That '70s Movie!