2000: Almost Famous
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe
There are some films that are like sinking into a comfortable sofa. They envelop you, surround you, make you feel warm and safe and just good about everything and everyone. You don’t want to leave their embrace, because while they have you, the outside world just vanishes, and it’s you and the world of the film. Those films become friends. And Almost Famous is one of my best friends.
It’s probably got more than a little to do with how I can relate to the main character. Like William, I was not cool. I don’t know if I wanted to be, but I certainly knew I wasn’t. And like William, I had things I was passionate about, and wanted to express my feelings for. Of course, I didn’t get the cross-country odyssey where I got deflowered by a room full of groupies; cinematic identification only goes so far. But I could definitely sympathize with an awkward teenager trying to figure out what he wanted to be. Hell, I’m an awkward middle-aged man in some ways still trying to figure that out.
And being middle-aged is part of another reason this film sticks with me. I get nostalgic for the time period in which it takes place. I was too young to be as into the music of the early 70s as William is in this. But it’s all over my memories, of long road trips and summer vacations and hearing my parents’ clock radio going off in the morning. There’s more than a little nostalgia at play here, for me and for Cameron Crowe. It’s obvious he misses that era more than a little, when rock wasn’t just a genre, but a lifestyle, before it became corporatized. Sure, we’re both probably romanticizing it a little bit — none of those bands ever said, “No, please, don’t pay us!” — but hey, there’s a reason Kate Hudson is wearing colored glasses on that poster.
And finally, I just flat-out like every character in this movie. They’re all people I wouldn’t mind spending time with, beyond the two hours they’re on the screen. But especially for those two hours. I feel like their lives continue to exist when the credits roll, and I wonder how they’re doing. They might argue and get on each other’s nerves, but there’s a bond there, and the cast totally makes you feel it, and want to be part of it.
And a big reason for that is that the film is ultimately hopeful. It doesn’t try to tap into the cynicism of the decade, although it doesn’t shy away from showing some of it. In the end though, good people do the right thing, damaged people find a way to heal, and lost people find their way home. Who wouldn’t want to settle down into something like that for a few hours?