Almost Famous follows teenage Rolling Stone wannabe William Miller (Patrick Fugit) on his trek across America as he tries to get an interview with Stillwater, a band on the verge of making it. Abba: The Movie has the same plot, but it misses out on the groupies, including “band aid” Penny Lane (the perfect Kate Hudson), the drugs (when going out to dinner was a knife, fork and stomach-pump affair), and the passive-aggressive one-upmanship of cool (“So I boned your lady. You don’t own her, maaaan” etc). Given these elements, Almost Famous could easily have been Spinal Tap, but for director Cameron Crowe’s dribbly-nosed affection for the era and its music – Yes, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin – and it comes as no surprise to learn that Crowe himself was once a teenage Rolling Stone wannabe who trekked across America doing things 15 year olds probably aren’t mean to do.
Excellence abounds in this film – it’s probably Crowe’s best film, is certainly Hudson’s, marked a highwater mark for Crudup. And Frances McDormand gets one of those scenes – where as the concerned mother of the wandering scribe she delivers a down-the-wires homily/plea/threat – that regularly comes up on “best phone scenes” lists. They do exist. For those who were there, the evocation of the period is total, bringing onto the screen the age when the black velvet jacket, patchouli oil and Wrangler jeans were de rigueur, and when rock’n’roll bands lived like feudal lords, beneath the radar of tabloid journalists. And for those who weren’t it’s a quiet reminder that U2 are not the best rock’n’roll band in the world.
© Steve Morrissey 2013