Today is Billy Crudup’s 48th birthday. Have a great day, Billy, I love ya. I shall take this opportunity to celebrate what is perhaps the greatest achievement in cinematic history: Cameron Crowe’s 2000 masterpiece Almost Famous, in which Crudup played the role of the charismatic rock star Russel Hammond. What do I love about Almost Famous?
If you’ve never seen the film, go do so now. If you’re not planning on ever watching it, get out of my face. No, just kidding. Read this and I’ll try to convince you of its unparalleled genius.
In short, Almost Famous is the story of a teenage boy who manages to get himself a job as a music journalist for Rolling Stone. He joins rockband Stillwater on their 1973 tour and gets sucked into a world of glitter, glamor, and most importantly: music. But Almost Famous is not your average coming-of-age story. In this post, I have listed all the reasons Almost Famous is so fantastically awesome.
It’s about me!
I think identification is a huge part of fandom. Whenever I really, really love something, say, for example, Almost Famous, it’s because I recognize myself in its characters, I can envision myself in their world and they make me feel understood. They make me feel at home.
In this particular case, that feeling of belonging has a lot to do with the first time I saw the film. I was 14 or so, only just a teenager, an aspiring writer of great things that move real people, and I had only just set out to discover my taste in music. And William Miller, the main character in Almost Famous, is exactly like that.
Lester Bangs, Almost Famous: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
Like William, I was painfully aware of my own uncoolness, and I wanted to become my own person, not entangled with my parents like an enfant. This wasn’t because I disliked my parents; I love them. I love them the way you love your parents and the way you love your best friends. But becoming independent was just the done thing. Everything and everyone was telling me to be my own person. At the end of the day, I was always happy to return home to my mom and dad. I still am, and so is William.
It’s an ode to fandom
Of course, Almost Famous is a movie about music. But more than that, it is about loving music. It is about loving something so much that it consumes your soul. I have allowed my soul to be consumed by so many things by now that there is barely anything left. I am nothing but a collection of the things I love. “It’s not,” Nick Hornby wrote, “what you’re like. It’s what you like.”
In my world, what you like is a huge part of your identity. When I meet a new person, I’ll probably ask them how they feel about Harry Potter right off the bat. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re not into Potter it’s not a dealbreaker, but if you are then that immediately gives us a foundation to build our friendship on. And Almost Famous is a movie about people who share just such a foundation, a deeply rooted passion for music, even if they don’t really know each other at all.
It’s about the ethical dilemma of being a writer
So William joins Stillwater on their tour to write for Rolling Stone Magazine about the inner workings of the band. But of course, the story becomes very complicated very quickly, in spite of Lester Bangs’ warning.
William falls in love with Penny Lane, a self-proclaimed Band Aid, and befriends most of the band members and the crew, thus making it very hard for himself to write about them objectively. I am an aspiring writer of fiction. I have written stories in which real people were distinctly recognizable. As a person who has a conscience, as well as a social life and literary ambitions, I can tell you that it is a minefield impossible to navigate. I do not envy William his position of having to write an honest piece about his friends at the meagre age of fifteen.
It’s about coming of age
I know I said that Almost Famous isn’t your average coming of age story, and it isn’t. It is much more than a coming of age story, as I hope to explain in this article. However, it is also undeniably a story about growing up, and that is one of the many things I love about it.
It’s one of the most quotable movies of all time
Quotability is probably not a very legitimate measure for the quality of a movie. It might be, though, because it is a measure of good writing. My top three most quotable movies of all time is as follows:
- The Princess Bride
- The Big Lebowski
- Almost Famous
This has a lot to do with my family’s tendency to return to these three movies when we are at a loss for what to watch, but it is also because all three of them contain the kinds of universal truths that are always applicable to daily life.
So, to recap: it’s easy to identify with the characters, it’s a movie about being a fan of something, and the writing is great. On top of that, the casting, the setting and the soundtrack are to die for. There is nothing I do not love about Almost Famous, but the scene below is probably my very favorite. Thank you for reading, and remember: “It’s all happening!”