Music plays an incalculably important role in my life. Ever since I was a little kid and my dad put on his old Three Dog Night cassettes and “Joy to the World” came on, classic rock (and eventually more bands, famous and obscure than most people have ever heard of) became a corner stone of my existence. There is something about getting lost in epic riffs, psychadelic guitar solos and sonic landscapes that has formed an essential role in my life. I was born in the wrong decade. I could have been out there on tour with the Dead or Zeppelin or Floyd, and I would have been happier than any aspect of modern life could ever provide. So, it goes without saying that Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical tale of a 15-year old rock journalist who gets to live his dream and tour the country with rock gods is a sentimental favorite. 2000’s Almost Famous is probably way too long and could have used some slimming down, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a fun roller coaster ride into a rock and roll fantasy.

Almost Famous is loosely based on writer-director Cameron Crowe’s teenage years as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and particularly a stint he did touring the country with the greatest hard rock band in the history of music, Led Zeppelin. In this film, young William Miller (Patrick Fugit), stand-in for the real Cameron Crowe,  gets the opportunity of a lifetime to tour the country with up and coming band Stillwater, based off of Led Zeppelin. He goes on a whirlwind tour across the states and is introduced to the hard-partying and crazy life of soon to be rock gods. Throughout this journey, Stillwater and William are joined by a group of “Band-Aids” who are essentially groupies without the sex, or so they like to claim. The Band-Aids are led by the beautiful Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).

The performances in this film are all-around fantastic and the casting was right on the money. Patrick Fugit embodies William with just the right amount of innocence and naivete for the fish out of water he is, and his emotional development over the film is very satisfying. Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand (who played William’s controlling mother) both deserved the Oscar nominations they recieved for the film. This is easily Kate Hudson’s single best performance and honestly her career has pretty much been all downhill from here. Billy Crudup does an exceptional job as the lead guitarist of Stillwater, Russell Hammond, and Jason Lee is also excellent as the jack ass lead singer, Jeff Bebe. There are a ton of awesome little cameos in the film from people who would be much more famous later on, like Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and a lot of others.

The film captures the essence of early 70’s rock and roll with the sort of accuracy that the material required, and any real classic lover will spend a lot of the film nerding out at the various references to the music that you love. I don’t even want to start on the fantastic soundtrack. I wish I could get away with dressing in the period outfits that the film puts to great use. The early 70’s and the late 60’s were pretty much the best ever. If you have any sort of love for the time frame, seeing it brought to life so well in this movie is pretty much worth the price of admission alone.

Even in its original format, this movie was way too long, and the special edition that I watched clocked in at like 2 hours and 45 minutes. There are a ton of great scenes in the film, but there are a bunch that could have been left on the editing room floor. Don’t let that discourage you from watching this film if you’ve never seen it before though. This is the movie that I pop in whenever I feel the need to lose myself in the hey day of classic rock and the life style that I wish hadn’t disappeared. This is one of my favorite coming of age films to come out of the 2000’s and I heartily recommend it to all.

Final Score: A-

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