In 1973, 15-year-old William Miller's unabashed love of music and aspiration to become a rock journalist lands him an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to interview and tour with the up-and-coming band Stillwater—fronted by lead guitar Russell Hammond, and lead singer Jeff Bebe.
Hopes, Dreams & Nightmares. Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe's paean to rock music, of bands and songs, of journalism and promotion, of sex & drugs. Drawing from experience and stories passed on, Crowe tells the tale of a young teenage boy aspiring to be a music journalist in the 1970s. Finding himself backstage with the rock group Stillwater, William Miller (Patrick Fugit) embarks on a road journey with the band that's awash with egos, groupies, perils and pleasures, all of which change his life forever. Lets go find something real! The most striking thing about it is that it's not overtly funny or sensationalistic, it's a production that's full of love, real love, for the subject matters to hand, and it's very often a moving experience to be part of. Narratively speaking, Crowe takes his time, steadily building characters and backdrop essentials, it works a treat as we become immersed in all the major players within the music circle, while also feeling the concerns of those on the outside of the rock group circle. Which of course gives us the great rewards come the final third of film when all matters come to a head. Crowe and his design team also work some magic for period flavours, capturing the early 70s vibe with awareness of clothing, food and drink and transport. Nothing ever seems false, which is remarkable in this era of product placements and shameless plugging. 50 bucks and a case of beer! Another one of Crowe's strengths is how he garners great performances from his actors. There's no big stars here, no Tom or Renée, but Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Kate Hudson and Fugit, who respond to their director with sincere and believable performances, no caricatures or ham sarnies here, no way. While outskirt performances from Frances McDormand (brilliant as William's fretful mother), Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman (as the legendary Lester Bangs) and Fairuza Balk, consistently hit the hi-hat. The music of course rocks, from metal and progers, to folkers and bubblegum, to some punk godfathery, these sounds feature on the soundtrack and kick the decade into orbit - while the Stillwater scenes are effective and the use of Elton John's Tiny Dancer will land in your heart and stay there. Cameron Crowe has created a smashingly memorable film that will stand the tests of time. Two cuts are available, where both the theatrical and director's cuts are sure fire things (the latter Bootleg Cut my personal favourite). This is a music based film to sit with the best of them, God Bless Rock N Roll and God Bless Cameron Crowe, for he could have easily embellished and over egged his rock pudding, instead he kept it real. 9/10