Also recommended

From February 2001
Film Review

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON
• other January releases

Film Review Hotline
ALMOST FAMOUS
4 Stars- Recommended

Almost Famous: William Miller (Patrick Fugit)

William Miller (Patrick Fugit) contemplates his career's take-off

STARS: Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup
Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson,
Jason Lee, Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk

DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe
SCREENPLAY: Cameron Crowe
CERTIFICATE: 15DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Columbia TriStar
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 03 mins
OPENING DATE (UK):
February 9 – RESCHEDULED

It's a Wonderful Wife?

For writer/director Cameron Crowe, truth may be stranger than fiction, but it’s also a hell of a lot more fun. Just look at Almost Famous, his semi-autobiographical look at 1970s rock music. Based on Crowe’s real-life experiences, it’s easily his best film to date, far superior to the overrated Jerry Maguire and even hipper than 1989’s Say Anything.

William Miller (Fugit) is an idealistic 15-year-old journalist, who lands an assignment from Rolling Stone (blissfully unaware of their new writer’s age) to tour with the rising rock band Stillwater. Before embarking on his adventure, William seeks advice from legendary rock critic Lester Bangs (Hoffman), who cautions him against getting too close to his story. “Be honest and unmerciful,” are his words of advice. Tape recorder in hand, the wide-eyed William climbs on the tour bus, bound for adventure.

As the road trip unfolds, the members of Stillwater begin to let their guard down in front of ‘the enemy’, as they call William. He witnesses the growing rivalry between Russell (Crudup) the lead guitarist and Jeff, the lead singer (Lee), bought to a head by a T-shirt photo that places Russell in the foreground with the other band members slightly out of focus. There’s also Russell’s exploitative treatment of the spritely ‘band aid’ Penny Lane (Hudson), who acts as William’s guide through the fast-paced backstage jungle. As deadlines begin to loom, the conflicted William has to choose between his need for the group’s acceptance and a good story.

There are so many excellent performances in Almost Famous that it seems almost criminal to single just a few of them out. There’s Frances McDormand’s scene-stealing moments as a would-be progressive mom who quizzes band members about her son’s safety by inconvenient long- distance phone calls. Crudup is superb as Russell who befriends the young journalist only to disappoint him, and Hudson’s portrayal of Penny the wistful groupie – sorry – ‘band aid’ is magic. When William informs her that she’s been sold to the group Humble Pie for “50 bucks and a case of beer,” her response, accompanied by a tearful smile is, “What kind of beer?” That moment of vulnerability speaks volumes.

But ultimately, Almost Famous is told from William’s point of view, and Patric Fugit is most definitely up to the task. He’s wonderfully restrained, uncomfortably awkward and very human. With any luck, the rest of Hollywood will soon discover what Cameron Crowe already knows: this kid is one to watch out for.

Joe Nazzaro

Read our massive reviews sections in this month's Film Review
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

{short description of image}
FILM OF THE MONTH:
5 Stars; Excellent
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON • released January 5

FULL DETAILS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THESE AND MORE IN THIS ISSUE

5 Stars; Excellent
Quills • Jan 19
Requiem for a Dream • Jan 19

4 Stars; Recommended
Audition • Jan 26
Cast Away • Jan 12

4 Stars; Recommended
Jan 19 • Kiss Me Kate
Jan 19 • The Lost Lover
Jan 12 • Rage
Jan 12 • Traffic
Dec 28 • Unbreakable

(see Cover Feature)