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This review is from: Almost Famous [DVD]  (DVD)
Almost Famous is a remarkable movie, it evokes a time I am tragically too young to remember. 1973 marked the end of an era when people would get together to start bands, cut an album and then spend the rest of the year going on tour. This was a time before corporate values would become more important than artistic ones, shown here by Stillwater, the band in the film, dropping their current manager in favour of a corporate suit because they will have a greater chance of making more money and achieving fame.
The movie follows William Miller a first time rock journalist on tour with up and coming band Stillwater on a tour of the US. This is actually a thinly veiled telling of Cameron Crowe's first assignment for Rolling Stone at the tender age of 16 with the Allman Brothers and benefits vastly from this first hand experience.
We are told the story from his point of view so whilst it is possible to tick off the usual sex, drugs and rock n' roll references they are not the soul of the movie. Instead the theme here is endings - to reflect the changes in the music industry we have a band that it about to become successful but are being driven apart by internal squabbling, a young 'Band Aid' Penny Lane whose illusions about life with a band are shattered, and of course William who embarks on a new part of his life.
Inspite of the subject matter and the feeling of irrevocable change that pervades the film, this is a film that is filled with humour - there was always a risk that it could have strayed into Spinal Tap territory - but this is neatly avoided by playing the band straight and by having the laughs come out of the situation (particularly when anyone is on the phone to Willam's protective mother).
The performances are excellent; Frances McDormand is a stand out with the tricky role playing Elaine Miller based entirely on the directors own mother. The real emotional punches of the movie rest in the hands of a triumvirate of performers; Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and newcomer Patrick Fugit and they do not fail. They deliver delicate performances that are truly affecting. The film benefits further with an excellent cameo from the versatile Philip Seymour Hoffman as real life music writer Lester Bangs.
The soundtrack, as you would expect from a film about music, is superb - with artists like Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Elton John (who produced some is his best stuff in this period) in the mix this could not really fail. Also excellent are the songs penned by Nancy Wilson and Cameron Crowe for fictional band Stillwater which really could have come straight out of the era.
The Directors cut is superb if you can get hold of it with an extra disc of goodies and a superb commentary (not included on this edition sadly - but if you can't then this will do very nicely indeed. This really is an achingly good movie - buy it today!!