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ALMOST FAMOUS

SYNOPSIS:
Scoring an assignment sight-unseen (over the phone) from Rolling Stone, 15 year old rock music fan William Miller (Patrick Fugit) enters the world of touring rock bands to cover rising stars, Stillwater. It’s 1973 and the tumultuous experience, watched from afar and in dread by his possessive, devoted mother (Frances McDormand), leads him through a maze of relationships and professional journalistic conundrums as he gets close to his subjects, through his friendship with guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). Making things even more complicated is the alluring ‘band aide’ Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), whose love for Stillwater focuses on (the married) Russell.

"Uncool meets ultracool in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, a biting backstage brush with fame, reality and all that comes in between. Positively zinging with energy from its superb cast, Crowe's intuitive and personal story takes an intimate look at being in the spotlight: the stars, the wannabes and the hangers-on. It's about that groupie mind-set of how being famous is where it's at. And if you're not, the next best thing is being close and rubbing shoulders (or whatever) with someone who is. It's fresh, funny and fabulous that affects with heart-wrenching poignancy. Crowe knows not only how to relate his story, but uses his considerable writing and directing skills to involve us personally and emotionally. Great cinematography, an oomphy score with music that wows – this is sex, drugs and rock 'n roll from all sides of its inner circle. It's about using and being used. We explore the difference between tell-all and not abusing one's position of privilege. Does everything have to be black and white, or is there middle ground, where humanity shows its best side? It's easy to be seduced into this false world where the stage is life itself and the props are the people. How to write about the party without joining it? Spunky and sexy in her bare-midriff wardrobe, Kate Hudson bares her soul; she is the band-aid groupie whose emotions for self-obsessed band leader Billy Crudup (magnetic) get in the way. Frances McDormand is marvellous as the mother who freaks everyone out – she beautifully embodies the caring parent who knows the score, and doesn't want her son to blow it. Yes, she belongs to the group of 'uncool', as does enigmatic Philip Seymour Hoffman, who solidly grounds the film. In the pivotal central role, newcomer Patrick Fugit portrays youth with all its awkward idealism to a tee. It's a fun ride that comes together with a big explosion of reality – the realisation of what's real and what's not, the value of family and that 'there's no place like home'. Fast paced, witty and funny, Almost Famous sizzles with atmosphere as it delivers a heart-felt, feel good tale about the illusion of fame."
Louise Keller

"The most satisfying aspect of Cameron Crowe’s semi-auto biographical film is the silken threads he weaves into the various relationships; there is ambiguity and an imprecision to these that is a marvellous aspect of cinema. Patrick Fugit’s debut as the 15 year old would-be rock journalist is brilliant and there are several accurate observations about journalistic quandaries that Crowe’s script captures 100 per cent, and Fugit delivers with characteristic confusion. For a journalist like me, some of the issues Crowe touches on are instantly recognisable – and real. Billy Crudup (defying his unfortunate nametag yet again), delivers a poignant characterisation of the lead guitarist in upwardly mobile but self-destructive band, Stillwater, and Kate Hudson shimmers as the almost-tragic groupie, Penny Lane. Frances McDormand hits the bullseye, too, as William’s ever-fretting mother, trying desperately to protect her son from the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll – the environment which he is in, up to his very open eyeballs. William’s experiences, as he juggles the adrenalin highs and let-downs of not only his journalistic role – thrust on him so early in his ‘career’ – but the emotional tour that the band’s working tour puts him through, make for compelling cinema."
Andrew L. Urban

"Some films ring true from the first frame. Director Cameron Crowe's wonderfully observed slice of his own youth does just that and more as it takes us on a dazzling odyssey set during the peak of rock'n'roll’s dinosaur era. Crowe himself was a 16 year-old staff writer for Rolling Stone in 1973 and his inside knowledge plays a major part in making alter ego William Miller's journey an amazing and insightful one. It captures perfectly that time in the early 70's when the last rays from the summers of love had been extinguished by the behemoth of corporate rock. The caustic commentary and wise advice offered to William by legendary rock writer Lester Bangs (wonderfully played Phillip Seymour Hoffman: the late Bangs would surely have approved) set the scene for the teenagers magical mystery tour which covers much more than just rock'n'roll. This is about family in the traditional sense (Frances McDormand is superb as William's college professor mother with a "don't do drugs" mantra) and the other family life William finds on the road with the band. His observations and reactions to the abuse handed out to Penny Lane and her fellow groupies (or "Band Aides" as she calls herself, unconvincingly) are realised with a tenderness which is heartbreaking. There's so much to admire in this spirited and funny film. The music by fictional band Stillwater is indistinguishable from the real thing, circa 1973 and Billy Crudup and his band are so convincing it seems they've walked into this film direct from playing support to Grand Funk Railroad and Wishbone Ash. One of the year's highlights."
Richard Kuipers

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HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the film in Real Audio.

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Read our INTERVIEW with Cameron Crowe

Read our SOUNDTRACK REVIEW with audio excerpts

See the TRAILER

ALMOST FAMOUS (M)
(US)

CAST: Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, Zooey Deschanel, Philip Seymour Hoffman,

DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe

PRODUCER: Cameron Crowe, Ian Bryce

SCRIPT: Cameron Crowe

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Toll

EDITOR: Joe Hutshing, Saar Klein,

MUSIC: Nancy Wilson

ART DIRECTOR: Clay A. Griffith, Clayton R. Hartley

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 22, 2001

GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS 2001: Winner Best Film (Musical/Comedy)
Winner Best Actress Supporting Role (Kate Hudson)

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: September 12, 2001

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