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The UnPopular Opinion: Almost Famous

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

ALMOST FAMOUS is one of those movies that everyone feels they should love because, well, everyone loves it. The problem is that Cameron Crowe's ode to rock and roll lives up to it's title in that it is almost the movie it sets out to be. Sure, you probably remember the "golden god" quote or the name of Kate Hudson's character and maybe you recall the "Tiny Dancer" singalong, but do you remember the rest of what made ALMOST FAMOUS popular back in 2000?

Maybe that is because ALMOST FAMOUS was never the hit you remember. In fact, ALMOST FAMOUS grossed just $47 million worldwide off of it's $60 million budget. The movie was designed to be an Oscar contender the same way Crowe's JERRY MAGUIRE was four years prior. But, the edge that Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding, Jr brought to JERRY MAGUIRE, making it more than another romantic comedy, is missing entirely from ALMOST FAMOUS. From scene to scene, ALMOST FAMOUS veers from comedy to drama, recalling Crowe's SAY ANYTHING. Like that John Cusack film, ALMOST FAMOUS just cannot figure out what movie it wants to be.

You probably have never heard of this band, but I guarantee you will find them average.

On one hand, Crowe is telling a powerful coming of age story based on his own youthful experience as a writer for Rolling Stone. The tale feels personal and the characters seem right out of the actual experiences Crowe himself recalls, but they feel whitewashed. The entirety of the movie feels like the safe interpretation of a rawer story. Sure, there is sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, but it feels like the brightly lit studio version of the story. In fact, ALMOST FAMOUS feels more like the pilot for a television series rather than a full feature film. There is something missing from the story.

Maybe it is the unlikeable characters. Aside from Philip Seymour Hoffman's great turn as Lester Bangs, the rest of the cast of ALMOST FAMOUS are annoying and bland. Patrick Fugit as William Miller, Crowe's stand-in for his own experiences, is the most vanilla character imaginable. While likeable, we never get to truly delve into this world the way Crowe did as a teen. That would have made for a far more interesting film. But, as it stands, we are watching a bland character following a bland rock band. Crowe's real life experience was with Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. If we had followed a band with that level of fame, it would have carried the gravity of this story to a much better place. Instead, this feels like the school newspaper editor following a local band around.

The prequel to SONS OF ANARCHY looks pretty damn good.

Kate Hudson became a "star" thanks to this movie. Every poster for the film was emnblazoned with her pouty face and curly blonde hair. Yeah, she was pretty damn hot in this movie, but here character is so woefully underdeveloped it baffles me how many people found this to be her breakthrough performance. If anyone else had played Penny Lane, we wouldn't be talking about it today. The same goes for Billy Crudup and Jason Lee, both actors I have enjoyed watching in several other films, but neither truly evokes what a rock star is. The feuding, infighting, and pure cockiness that is a band seems to be telegraphed on screen.

At it's core, ALMOST FAMOUS is a movie about music but that is covered up by focusing on what it means to be a writer, to live your dream, to be a groupie, to come of age, and a couple of other subplots that seem to overshadow the entire crux of the film. The award winning and best selling soundtrack to ALMOST FAMOUS is a great listen, but the movie never seems to be as good as the tunes put together to accompany it. The most recognizable moment in the movie features a band singing an Elton John song. If the rest of the movie had been as poignant as that scene, I wouldn't be writing this column today.

Even the stars fell asleep watching ALMOST FAMOUS.

If there is anything to be salvaged from ALMOST FAMOUS, it is the moments in the film. Cameron Crowe has written a dozen or more great scenes here, but they are all put together in a film that has too much going on. If ALMOST FAMOUS had purely focused on William Miller's evolution as a writer, it would have been a better movie. If we had spent more time with the band and less with the groupies, it would have been better. If we spent less with the band and focused entirely on the groupies, it would have been better. Maybe if Cameron Crowe had used a real band and told some true stories from his life rather than fictionalizing it, ALMOST FAMOUS would have felt more genuine.

ALMOST FAMOUS is an example of a filmmaker trying too hard. For all of the critical laurels bestowed on the movie, revisiting it (or the extended Bootleg Cut) will show that this is not a movie that ages well. It is the perfect movie to quote a couple of lines from and to sing along to when a famous tune plays, but for the rest it is a bit contrived and vastly overhyped. Movies about rock and roll, especially set during the tumultuous 1970s, will always make for entertaining films. Unfortunately, ALMOST FAMOUS is not one of them.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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