Almost Famous, an instant classic from writer-director Cameron Crowe, celebrates its 20th anniversary of its theatrical release in 2000.
Cameron Crowe draws on his real-life experiences writing for Rolling Stone to tell this semi-autobiographical story. The things that William Miller (Patrick Fugit) experiences are things that Crowe did in real life. They say to write what you know, right?
In any event, William doesn’t exactly have the best home life. His mom (Frances McDormand), recently widowed, lied to him about his age. Making matters worse, her ban on rock music and pop culture in general has led to older sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) leaving home for San Francisco. Cut to a few years later and William is obsessed with rock music. It’s enough that he wants to make a living as a rock journalist. William approaches Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and in turn, he gets an assignment to review a Black Sabbath concert. Well, William isn’t getting backstage no matter how hard he tries. In spite of this, William ends up meeting Pennie Lane (Kate Hudson) and the other band aids.
Right when you think William is going to end up going home empty-handed, Stillwater shows up for the concert. The band slowly lets William into their circle and he ends up being able to fulfill his assignment for Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres (Terry Chen). The thing here is that when it comes time for the piece to run, Russell (Billy Crudup) lies when vetted about the piece and breaks William’s heart in the process. Pennie later comes to the rescue and saves the day so to speak.
Stillwater isn’t an actual band but a composite standing in for those bands that Crowe toured with during this time. Such bands included Poco, the Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Together with his then-wife Nancy Wilson, they contributed three songs to the band’s repertoire. Peter Frampton wrote the band’s other two songs.
If the Academy had expanded beyond five Best Picture nominations, there’s no doubt that Almost Famous would have been nominated. If you ask me, this film is the Best Picture of 2000 but again, that’s just my opinion. One can look at a film like Almost Famous and realize that it has stood the test of time. People still love this film after twenty years.
Both Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand picked up Oscar nominations for their supporting performances. Joe Hutshing and Saar Klein also earned a well-deserved nomination for their editing work. Where Crowe was robbed of a directing nomination, he rightfully won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Times have changed since the film was released in theaters twenty years ago. The things that the band members did with the band aids in the film are certainly unprofessional in this era. The question I must ask myself with watching for the 20th anniversary is through which lens should one watch the film. Should we watch it through the present-day lens where we know some of what’s happening is definitely wrong. Or do we watch it through the lens of the 1970s when the film took place? This was what went in the 1970s and 1980s and to me, it would be wrong if we watched the film solely through a 2020 lens.
Because this film is so personal for Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous will stand the test of time.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Cameron Crowe
CAST: Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, Zooey Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, Bijou Phillips, and Philip Seymour Hoffman