While attending Kennesaw State University, this writer from Austell took many film classes. Every time there was something new offered, I jumped on the opportunity to learn more about various films. One of the courses this writer attended was one taught by Dr. Michael Tierce. The class focused on The Graduate and how that film influenced many current releases of the film world. One of the films we studied during my last semester was Almost Famous. This was a film I was not fortunate enough to see wat Movies 278 or Regal Cinemas Stadium 22 in Austell when the film was released in theaters. In the case of Almost Famous, the most obvious influence would be the use of an amazing soundtrack. In the other sense, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) in The Graduate was constantly taking a journey to discover who he was destined to be. The male lead in Almost Famous, William Miller (Patrick Fugit), was also constantly attempting to discover himself through his many adventures with Stillwater. Both men in their own ways took heroic ventures. The following has been developed through Dr. Tierce’s teachings on the material at hand.
In one’s life a person becomes their own lead character. Throughout one’s life he or she will embark on numerous adventures that range from admirable to atrocious. In Almost Famous, William Miller begins his life in a world that his sister, Anita Miller (Zooey Deschanel), quickly deems as being, “like nobody else I know!” Upon his sister leaving, William not only realizes his actual age, but also realizes his whole new world. A world his mother, Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand), does not desire him to become a part of in the first place. This world is that of a rock star. She is afraid for him to experience the debauchery of the rock star world. Once William becomes associated with band member Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) he begins on a heroic journey of the lifetime.
In the beginning, at one point in their life, everyone connects to a person or a group of people who inspires said individual throughout the years. Sometimes those mentors are right in front of one and sometimes we wish those guides could be right in front of us. In William’s world, his first taste of inspiration is when he sees To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus Finch is immediately William’s hero. With this in mind Elaine’s dreams of William becoming a lawyer strengthens. However, since Anita introduces William to another world, he begins to study another mentor as well. Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymor Hoffman). Once Lester arrives in town for radio interview, he and William form a bond. Lester even tells William that he can call him anytime because Lester is always awake. In all reality viewers later realize that is because Lester is always at home. He even states, “Of course I’m home. I’m always home. I’m uncool” which makes him even more of an appropriate mentor for William. He recognizes the desire William has not only because of the school articles he sends him, but also because of the desire he once started out with as well.
Likewise, Lester’s mentoring begins by evoking the same passion Lester has for the business. He assigns him a thousand word article on Black Sabbath for Cream magazine. Lester encourages that William make his life begin by putting himself out in the world more. Upon Elaine being told about this rock concert, she immediately forbids her son involvement. She does not want him to delve further in the rock n’ roll world of sex and, as she states repeatedly, drugs. In addition, Elaine fears this further his desire to be involved in the world of rock n’ roll. A world most people dream about, but never become attain. While at first, one believes that Elaine will be his main barrier, audiences soon realize that William has many obstacles he must face in order to become the person he is destined to become. In order to continue on his journey he must get past stage guards, namely Freddy, and even then continue an uphill battle to pseudo stardom.
Eventually, William arrives backstage, but only when he begins to communicate with Stillwater. The group realize despite him being “the enemy”, he is also a fan of the group. William soon realizes he needs to convince the band he is not in fact the enemy but their friend. Upon crossing this threshold, he meets two more mentors. In time his two new mentors, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) and Russell Hammond, become his surrogate parents. Audiences soon after discover that Cream magazine is not the only magazine William was sending his articles to when Ben Fong-Torres (Terry Chen) calls. He proceeds to offer William a job writing 3,000 words for Rolling Stone magazine. This time Elaine is even more hesitate to let her son travel with these rock stars. She does, however, give into William because of the promises he makes to her before his departure. This promise becomes one he will inevitably break while he progresses on his venture.
Almost immediately, William is welcomed into a “secret community” of rock n’ roll. Soon rather than later, he must decide if he is merely the fan or become the journalist. By becoming a member of this secret rock society, William has already given into the rebellious ways of Anita. In order to survive in the world, Penny and Russell become a vital part of William’s existence. The ultimate irony is in order for both his actual family and his rock star family to stay together, William is the one who must piece everyone back together again. Despite being a part of this family and feeling that he is Stillwater’s friend, Lester warns William this will never happen. He also reminds William that the members of Stillwater are not his friends. Lester also explains to William that if he desires to be their friend he must “be honest, and unmerciful.”
Being unmerciful would prove not to be a problem for William to accomplish. While he does not appear to be partaking in majority of the strenuous activities his “friends” are participating in, William knows all about the numerous drug encounters occurring behind closed doors. At one point, he even sees Russell stand from the roof of home and shout how he is a “golden God” and witnesses the attempted suicide by Penny when Russell denies her presence. After Penny’s near death experience, William watches Penny slip away and continues his venture with Stillwater. This time he does so on their new mode of transportation. While he is on the airplane, he hears every last detail of the band’s confessions to one another as the plane almost crashes. Once this occurs and the band survives, William is led to believe his ultimate voyage has paid off by being told “write what you want” by Russell. Little did William know these words were not spoken from a true friend at the time.
Furthermore, William’s true enemy of the film becomes Alison the fact checker. Despite William’s entire story being the truth, Alison declares William as “just some fan” because Russell denies every detail of the article William wrote for Rolling Stone magazine. Consequently, a defeated William journeys back home. This is not before reuniting with his sister and going on another adventure with her finally. Once Anita and William get back home, Penny talks to Russell about what he did to William’s story and tricks him into going to William’s home instead of her own. This helps William not only get his interview, but also get his article published for Rolling Stone magazine.
As a result of these events in William’s life, he is molded into a person who is “almost famous”. While he does not become Atticus Finch, he still admires him and continues to reveal the truth about those surrounding him. With these traits in mind, William becomes the rock journalist that Lester Bangs mentored him to become. With perseverance, William’s journey pays off in the end as he attains his ultimate goals of being immersed in a world of rock n’ roll while remaining true to himself.
If you are interested in renting Almost Famous or The Graduate, make sure to check out this title through Netflix, your local Austell Blockbuster, Videodrome, Movies Worth Seeing, or movie channels based upon your cable or satellite provider. To purchase any Blu-rays or DVDs mentioned in this review please check out your local Austell Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or Kmart.