(This was written as part of the application process for Chennai International Screenwriting Workshop. It’s not 200 words, as the rules say, but I chose to keep the full version for the blog. Hat Tip: Maami.)
Almost Famous would never miss the list of my Top 5 favorite movies. Probably because it combines two of my passions – movies and music. Or probably because, it is just so well written, so well made and so well enacted, it just deserves to be there.
The movie starts off establishing the upbringing of William Miller, whose hero is Atticus Finch. His only connection to rock ‘n’ roll is his sister, who is mad about the phenomenon, much to their mother’s despair. When he is 15, William gets a chance to write for Rolling Stones, following an upcoming band, Stillwater, on their tour. The movie revolves around a number of brilliant moments on this tour, the “growing up” of William Miller, his relationship with the band, particuarly Russel Hammond, a groupie, interestingly named, Penny Lane and his one on one sessions with Lester Bangs, the Rolling Stones and Creem reporter, famous for his views on rock.
The sequences that follow are so masterfully written that every frame, every dialog touches your heart. The music, handpicked by Cameron Crowe, goes on top of most of the scenes, that you follow the music rather than the characters. Especially the sequence when Elton John sings Tiny Dancer, right after the band is in shambles thanks to a dispute over a T-shirt and Russel Hammond’s omnipresence as the face of Stillwater. Lester Bangs , Ben-Fong Torres and Jan Wenner were real people and played by look alike actors in the movie. Lester Bangs gives the go ahead to William and gives him timely advice along the way. And arguably, this character gets some of the best lines of the movie. And my favorite is – “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
The magic is apparent because every character is generously carved and you can see the actors enjoying the parts. An interesting trivia associated with the movie is when William meets Penny Lane for the first time and she invites him to Morocco. William says, “Ask me again”. This is actually Patrick Fugit, the actor getting out of character to ask Kate Hudson to repeat the lines for another take. Crowe liked it and kept it for the final cut. It is a beautiful beautiful scene that merits repeat viewing. Here it is.
The writing is what makes this movie special and next comes the performances. Not entirely surprising with a brilliant cast in Frances Mcdormand, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I shamelessly promote this movie to anyone who listens and would never miss the TV reruns. I would have loved to see this movie win many Oscars but am happy with Cameron Crowe’s Oscar for original screenplay.