It’s the seventies. William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is a fifteen-year-old boy with an unusual mother who has driven his older sister away, but as she left, she gave him her records, and rock and roll started to save his soul. Driven by his passion and some advice from legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), he manages to make friends with Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) and starts to hang out with Stillwaters, an up-and-coming band. Before he knows it, he is on tour with them; a teenager playing it older, out of his depth and learning a lot.
It felt real. It seems ridiculous that a young boy could end up in this situation, but I can imagine that, in the seventies, it could happen. I really liked the fact that everyone was effected by things; not just Patrick, not just Penny Lane, not even just Russel Hammond (Billy Crudup), the guitarist in the band and love interest for Penny. But also the other band members and the other groupies and especially Patrick’s mother, played by the almost wonderful Frances McDormand. This would be an excellent film for teaching film; not only does it hit all the marks, but it is interesting and fun and moving and ace.
Almost Famous won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Cameron Crowe) and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kate Hudson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Frances McDormand) and Best Film Editing.
Watching this film several years ago, I recall thinking it was like watching a really awful car accident. Barry Egan is a very insecure, introverted man who has been tormented by his seven sisters his entire life and is prone to outbreaks of violence against inanimate objects. At the same time as he meets love interest Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), he ends up in a battle with the man running a phone sex line which Barry used once and who is running a scam to extort money.
It’s a tough film for a lot of reasons. It is intensely emotional, with such massive extremes, and Barry Egan is clearly such a broken man who needs a lot of help to get anywhere near being “normal”. Yet, every person in his life (or at least, his family, including his brothers-in-law) seem to be unable to help in any real way. When Lena comes along, there is a sense of hope, but on the other hand, it is totally implausible that a relationship could develop between these two. Perhaps if she’d been seen to be more messed up, or something. If there was some hope that Barry could actually pull it together… I don’t know. Thinking about this reminds me of Silver Linings Playbook that I watched last year. I didn’t like it all that much, and again I think it was the implausibility of the relationship. At lease Silver Linings showed more of the female character and her flaws, but I still found that relationship hard to believe.
Definitely a sadtacular film. But it has reminded me of the admiration I have for the marvelous Emily Watson.