Almost Famous (R)
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This came out in 2000, but I didn't see it until 2016. And... somewhere in between those two years, I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the director's cut was better than the theatrical version, so I decided I'd get that version. But more years went by, and then one day at a yard sale I saw a used DVD of the theatrical version, and decided what the heck. I bought it, and a few months later I finally watched it. And I can't imagine the director's cut is significantly better. I suppose I do feel vaguely guilty about not holding out for that, but... meh. I don't care. The version I watched was pretty awesome.
So, it starts out in 1969. There's a kid named William Miller, who is being raised by his single mother, Elaine (Frances McDormand). She seems to be pretty much anti-anything fun, which leads to her daughter Anita (Zooey Deschanel) leaving home to become a stewardess, at age 18. Anita leaves behind some rock 'n' roll records for her younger brother William. The movie then flashes forward four years to 1973, when William is 15. He's been writing articles about rock bands for his school paper (and apparently some local underground paper), and sending them to a famous rock journalist named Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman). One day he meets Lester, who ends up giving him an assignment to go to a Black Sabbath concert and write a review for Creem magazine. But since he's not on the list, William can't get into the concert, so he ends up meeting some girls who are also waiting to get in. They call themselves Band-Aids (certainly not groupies). The only one of them who is really important to the plot is Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), though a couple of the others were played by Fairuza Balk and Anna Paquin (who are a bit more familiar to me from other things than Hudson). Anyway, the Band-Aids eventually get into the show, but William doesn't. Penny promises to try to get him in, but before she can, a band called Stillwater shows up, and William manages to get in with them.
Well, there are four guys in the band, but we only really get to know two of them. The lead singer is Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee), and the lead guitarist is Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). And we eventually see that there's some tension between the two of them over which one is more important, I guess. Meanwhile, William ends up going on tour with Stillwater, having been hired by Rolling Stone to write an article about them. Of course the Band-Aids also go along, and William ends up becoming close to Penny, although she kind of has a relationship with Russell (who is married). Anyway, it's all very different from the life that William is used to. And of course his mother is constantly worried about him. (She's actually kind of awesome.) And... I dunno, the movie is just really funny and cool and... real. It's certainly far outside anything I've ever experienced, or would ever want to. But it has a certain wish fulfillment element that sort of put me in mind of a very different film, Kick-Ass. And a sense of... a kid being out of his depth... that sort of put me in mind of Real Genius. And yet, ultimately, William does a good job. And as much as this experience affects him, he affects... well, at least Russell and Penny.
And I don't know what else to tell you, except... well, I called it "real." I should say it's semi-autobiographical, loosely based on the experiences of writer/director Cameron Crowe. But I also said it's outside the experience of... William, and me, and most people. Even so... um... how do I put this? It's kind of hard for me to really identify with anyone, whether in real life or fiction. But I felt like William was sort of my idea of a normal person. A person most people should be able to identify with. A sort of Arthur Dent thrown into a crazy world. And it's largely because of his normality that all the craziness seems so sort of genuine, believable, understandable, even relatable. I guess. (And incidentally, I feel compelled to say that if this movie had been made a few years later, I have to believe William would have been played by Michael Cera. Which would have been cool, I guess, but I'm kind of glad he was played by Patrick Fugit. Someone I've seen in other things, according to his list of credits, but whom I don't remember at all. Which I think is kind of perfect.) I should also say it's interesting that at one point, we see that Russell wants to connect to something "real." In fact, I could probably spend rather a long time pontificating on what "real" even means, and the fact that the lives of celebrities are no less "real" than the lives of anyone else. But... I'll spare you that. (Seriously, just watch the movie. I think you'll get it. People are people. Although... no. No, I'mma shut up while I'm still in reasonably shallow water.)