As a teenage hanger-on to a 1970s rock-n-roll band, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) lays down strict rules for herself and her fellow "Band Aids". The girls give blow jobs, but never have sexual intercourse with the band members. They don't get involved emotionally.
Russell Hammond (a smouldering Billy Crudup) knows he shouldn't tell secrets to journalists. And he has plenty he'd like to keep both from his at-home girlfriend and from Penny, whom he dallies with on the road.
Mentors tell the wide-eyed William Miller (Patrick Fugit), an aspiring Rolling Stone writer at age 15, never to become friends with the rock stars he covers.
Quickly enmeshed in a love triangle, these three engaging characters break all the rules. What fun to watch them do it, in this captivating paean to the drug and sex-crazed bands who made rock history!
Who wouldn't want to join a rock band on the road? Writer/director Cameron Crowe takes us along on the road trip - based on his own experience as a young Rolling Stone writer - of Stillwater, a fictional up-and-coming band. William falls in love with the music, the unwashed glamour, the emotional eddies surrounding the band and his own dream of fitting in.
Crowe is an expert storyteller, keeping the audience hungry as the plot slowly unfolds. Costumes and hairstyles perfectly evoke the era; you can almost smell the stale smoke and day-old beer in Stillwater's crummy hotel rooms.
A good story depends on the credibility of the actors, and the primary trio, while low-key, ring true. Hudson's knowing smile and lithe body give Penny charm and help us believe the hold she has over both Russell and William. Crudup's charisma and yummy good lucks make us want to forgive Russell's sometimes callous behaviour. And while Fugit's perpetually awed expression can become wearing, he's so well-meaning you can't help but like William.
Almost Famous is also a surprisingly funny movie, from William's ultra-serious academic mother Elaine (Frances McDormand) lecturing the too-cool Russell to the impromptu jaunt Russell and William take to a suburban high school party.
As Penny, Russell and William struggle with the rules of life and love and stardom, we get a glimpse inside this idealized world. Just as William wrestles with writing a critical profile of his new friends, Crowe in the end doesn't have the heart to destroy the myths and mystique of this land. So even if it's a bit on the laudatory side, you're sure to enjoy the trip.