A nostalgic, bittersweet ode to the hedonistic rock 'n' roll days of the early 1970s, Almost Famous
is Cameron Crowe's most personal, deeply felt film (he even cowrote the original songs with wife Nancy Wilson). "Does anybody remember laughter?" asks one of the characters in a Led Zeppelin reference that typifies how the film works both for those who, like Crowe, remember and love the times and its music, and those who can only look back in wonder at an era when rock music was about something more than just marketing. Closely based on his own coming-of-age experiences as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone
magazine, the story follows the director's alter ego
William Miller (sympathetic newcomer Patrick Fugit) on the journey of a lifetime touring with fictional rock band Stillwater, struggling to get the all-important interview, losing his virginity, falling in love, and trying to fend off his obsessively concerned mother (Frances McDormand). Kate Hudson as the "band-aid" (not groupie) Penny Lane is the film's magnetic centrepiece; Billy Crudup plays Stillwater's temperamental and egocentric lead guitarist perfectly; and Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the show as jaded rock journo Lester Bangs, the very personification of "uncool" whose ardent love for music--good, honest music--is at the very heart of this film. "I have to go home" says William on the Stillwater tour bus in one of the many emotionally truthful moments that permeate this wonderful film; "You are home", Penny Lane tells him.
On the DVD: This is an attractive anamorphic 1.85:1 picture, and the fantastic soundtrack gets the Dolby 5.1 treatment. The extra features include the complete performance of Stillwater's Zeppelin-esque "Fever Dog" and a good 25-minute HBO "making-of" featurette with contributions from all the principals ("I really liked hanging out with all the girls on the set", says Patrick Fugit with a straight face). Navigate the special features menus by following the red Stratocasters and find Cameron Crowe's six articles for Rolling Stone that reveal how closely the film is based on his experiences on the road with the Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin. There are also four trailers (only one for this film, oddly), and text-based Filmographies and Production Notes. No commentary, though. --Mark Walker
DVD Special Features:
HBO Making of Featurette
Rolling Stone Article--Original Text be Cameron Crowe
Stillwater's "Fever Dog" Music Video
Animated & Interactive Menus
1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (enhanced for 16:9 TVs)
Dolby 5.1 English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese
15-year-old high school student William Miller (Patrick Fugit) has just won the chance to write a story about Stillwater, an up-and-coming rock band, for Rolling Stone magazine. So he joins the band on tour, makes friends with lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), and gets himself a ringside seat for some classic 1970s rock excesses. But with Rolling Stone demanding a story that could very well cause him to betray his newfound friends, his over-protective mother (Frances McDormand) keeping a regular check on him, and tensions within the band reaching breaking point, William finds that he must tread very carefully indeed.