Almost Famous is on my list of great films that I can watch again and again. The superb ensemble cast, the awesome soundtrack and the beautifully penned script by Cameron Crowe are a perfect combination. I can’t say enough about the cast. It’s an incredible group and, to me, every actor seems made for the role that they play. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Frances McDormand are utterly fantastic; Patrick Fugit is likeable and absolutely charming; Kate Hudson is positively luminous in what is undoubtedly the best role of her career, and Billy Crudup and Jason Lee simply rock in their roles as rock stars.
The characters and the story are what I love most about the film. The script is ripe with funny bits, touching insights and honest human experiences and emotions. It’s so rich in character. They’re complex and honest and the experiences they have and the journey that they embark upon together is so smartly and touchingly rendered by Crowe’s writing and direction. It feels as you watch the film that you’re perhaps watching a documentary cataloguing the real lives and real experiences of real people (maybe in part due to the fact that the script is semi-autobiographical and is loosely focused on Crowe’s early days as a music journalist and associate editor for Rolling Stone magazine.)
One of my favourite scenes in the film is when rock band Stillwater is flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi with William Miller (Patrick Fugit) – a teenage aspiring rock journalist trying to get his first cover story for Rolling Stone written – in tow. Their plane gets caught in a terrible electrical storm and loses altitude. Convinced the plane is about to go down and they’re all going to die, the band members and their manager start confessing their darkest secrets and sharing their true feelings. Confessions come pouring out, some threatening to damage reputations and relationships forever. The cabin is wracked by turbulence and the group is certain it’s all over when the plane stabilizes. The pilot yells, “We’re alive, we’re going to make it! Sweet relief!” Sweet relief it isn’t for the band members and their manager who wish they’d just died after unloading their darkest secrets to each other. I love this scene because it’s one of many in the film that showcases the brilliance of character that the film underscores so beautifully. It’s character-driven, well-written and funny, and so perfectly played by all involved in the scene. It leads to the great moment in the film where, completely spent, exhausted and resigned, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), Stillwater’s lead singer tells William, “Write what you want.”