2000. Directed by Cameron Crowe.
A semi-autobiographical coming of age story wrapped in a rock and roll love letter, Almost Famous is one of Crowe's finest films.
William Miller, a gifted teenager, lands the jobs of his dreams: Writing for Rolling Stone magazine. His assignment is to follow an up and coming rock band, Stillwater during . What begins as an outsider study of 70's music culture organically transforms into a heartbreaking meditation on love, loss, and family.
Crowe's Oscar winning script is amazing. The dialogue is raw and fluid without devolving into melodrama. The characters are all vulnerable, with each of their various weaknesses exposed, allowing for memorable confrontations and poignant reconciliations. The genius of Crowe's work is in the nuance. Stolen glances, drunken revelations, and hilarious circumstances combine to create a touching story that never goes too far in one direction, allowing each character to shine whilst never overshadowing the ensemble.
Kate Hudson steals the limelight as Penny Lane, a legendary anti-groupie who becomes the object of William's love while she educates him in the cultural mores of the music world. The amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a stellar supporting effort as legendary music critic Lester Bangs, William's mentor who repeatedly warns him of the dangers of sympathizing with his subjects. Francis McDormand plays William's mother, based on Crowe's own mom. As always, her performance straddles the line between humor and gravity admirably, delivering some of the film's best lines with grace. Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, and Zooey Deschanel round out the cast, each of them contributing the energized threads to Crowe's power ballad tapestry.
One of the most admirable qualities of this film is how all of the technical elements are restrained, and yet top shelf. Joe Hutshing and Saar Klein's editing garnered an Oscar nomination for their stellar work, while John Toll's camera wizardry records the emotional wreckage with deep compositions and a dizzying flurry of colors. Betsy Heimann's costume design captures the shag carpetvintage feel with ease, supported by Kathryn Blondell's flawless makeup work.
The Grammy winning soundtrack, featuring original songs by Crowe and his wife, as well as iconic rock songs from Zeppelin, Skynard, Bowie, and Elton John (to name a few) is a euphoric grab bag that enhances the psychedelic atmosphere with perfect application.
Available now on Netflix, Almost famous is feel good storytelling at its finest. Managing to hit every nostalgic checkbox without overreaching to deliver a touching dissertation on the wonders of life. If you're in the mood for a soulful film that has a sense of playful depth, then Almost Famous should be added to your queue with haste.