By Laura Green
Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000) is a film that transcends time, and perfectly captures the rock and roll movement of the 1960s and the early 1970s. Whether you were really there, or born forty years later isn’t important, it’s the ability of this movie to make viewers fall in love with it time and time again.
William is an “uncool” fifteen year old whose interest in rock journalism results in him landing a gig with Rolling Stone Magazine. In a semi-autobiographical account of Cameron Crowe’s teenage years, we follow William as he tours with fictional band Stillwater, and struggles to get the interview he desires from unruly and good-looking guitarist, Russell.
William is caught in a whirlwind of drugs, music, love, and a strict mother back home who only wants him to finish high school and become a lawyer. William navigates a maze of new and old relationships, all with the seemingly unattainable dream of becoming a rock writer.
Russell and William are at odds when it seems their feelings for a mysterious groupie, known only as Penny Lane, causes tension between writer and musician. Penny’s love for Russell is clear, and only through each man’s treatment of her do we realise that those caught up in “the circus” of rock n’ roll need to come back down to the “real world.”
The film is endearing because of its reality, including allusions to famous musicians of the time, classic outfits – flared jeans, crocheted tops and leather jackets– and the ideologies expressed by the band members surrounding wealth, music, and women.
Almost Famous develops an undercurrent of criticism for the hypocrisy of rock stars who were treated as gods. It condemns their treatment of adoring fans, who are scorned by the rock stars as groupies, or journalists like William who are recognised only as “the enemy.”
Crowe’s retelling of his teenage experiences in Almost Famous manages to imbue sentimentality, whether you were a part of the iconic era or not. William’s blend of youthful awkwardness and graceful mental wisdom are not lost on the viewer.
Despite such an unusual setting, William undergoes many of the coming-of-age experiences of most teenagers, and we relate and empathise, even on the basic level of simply sharing a love of music.