In the early 1970s, William Miller writes about the band Stillwater on a cross-country tour, learning about friendship and love along the way.
Let’s pretend we didn’t all watch this a thousand times back in 2000. (Or was it just music-and-writing obsessed Teen Jennie?)
15-year-old William escapes his overprotective mother through music – literally. Having convinced the editor of Creem magazine to let him publish a few pieces, his writing catches the eye of Rolling Stone. Before he can say “holy bell bottoms, Batman,” he’s off touring with the up-and-coming rock band Stillwater, trying to get the story of his life.
No ’70s rock story would be complete without the sex and drugs to go along with it, and this is no exception. The beautiful Penny Lane (“We’re not groupies…we’re BAND AIDS”) takes William under her wing while confiding in him that Russell Hammond, Stillwater’s guitarist, is her latest “project.” (He could be great, you know.)
With a soundtrack by Nancy Wilson of Heart – and Peter Frampton – the movie captures what it’s like to “love a silly piece of music, or a band, so much that it hurts.”
I haven’t seen this in well over ten years, so I wondered how it was going to hold up on my rewatch. Penny more or less exists to validate William and Russell, but it’s to Kate Hudson’s infinite credit that she imbued her character with enough warmth and wisdom that you can imagine Penny really has her own inner world. With the exception of William’s mother, Elaine, the female characters are the least developed and least interesting. Sure, it’s semi-autobiographical and everything is through William’s perspective, but if Penny wasn’t well-acted it would have fallen flat.
Don’t get me wrong, though – I still think you should watch the hell out of this movie.
Bear with me here, because this movie features EVERY ACTOR IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
Patrick Fugit as William Miller
“When and where does this “real world” occur?”
Frances McDormand as Elaine Miller
“Rock stars have kidnapped my son!”
Zooey Deschanel as Anita Miller
“This is a house of lies!”
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs
“I’m always home. I’m uncool.”
Rainn Wilson as David Felton (Rolling Stone)
Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond
“Your mom kind of freaked me out.”
Jason Lee as Jeff Bebe
“Is it that hard to make us look cool?”
Jimmy Fallon as Dick Hope (manager)
“I didn’t invent the rainy day, man. I just own the best umbrella.”
GROUPIES SORRY, BAND AIDS
Kate Hudson as Penny Lane
“Famous people are just more interesting.”
Anna Paquin as Polexia Aphrodisia
“Let’s deflower the kid.”
Fairuza Balk as Sapphire
“Just think, any other city in the world and you’d still be a virgin.”
Peter Frampton as himself
I love that Peter Frampton actually taught Jason Lee how to play guitar for the movie. Hollywood is insane. “Oh yeah, I play guitar. Peter Frampton taught me how.”
Eric Stonestreet as Sheldon the Desk Clerk
“You have a message from Elaine…your mother. She’s a handful. She freaked me out.”
Jay Baruchel as Vic Munoz
“Mr. Robert Plant, he signed-signed my t-shirt five minutes ago! Please don’t smear it. Oh, dear God. Please don’t smear it. But five minutes ago, he touched this pen. He touched this pen!”
Mitch Hedberg as the Eagles’ road manager
Couch-Sharing Capability: High
Depending on how open your family is, this could be a great holiday pick. The music is great, nearly every line is quotable, and despite the questionable facial hair and fashion choices of the 70s, there’s eye candy of both sexes. Sure, your super-conservative Aunt Fanny is probably going to be horrified when young William is deflowered by three bored groupies, but it’s not the holidays until someone flounces off muttering about the things you see on the tee vee these days.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: It Depends
The way I see it, you can either appreciate this movie for its story, which is good, or you can make a drinking game out of it. (Also depends on how vocal Aunt Fanny is with her disapproval.) And we here at FYA never miss a chance for a drinking game.
The Official FYA Almost Famous Drinking Game
Take a sip when:
- William looks wide-eyed and out of place
- A Band Aid says something wise on the surface, but is really just an effect of powerful drugs
- It’s abundantly clear Kate Hudson is not wearing a bra
- Elaine Miller is overprotective
- Russell avoids giving William an interview
- Someone refers to William as “the enemy”
Take a shot when:
- Someone sincerely talks about the music, man
- An actual famous musician is “sighted” or someone says they’re around
- William’s perception of what musicians are really like is shattered into a million Penny-sized pieces
Use of Your Netflix Subscription: Practically Mandatory
If you haven’t seen this before, you ought to give it a try. If you have, chances are you loved it, just like the rest of the world, and you’re going to want to see it again.