Cameron Crowe's new movie, "Almost Famous" (which opens Friday), follows William Miller, a 15-year-old kid who gets a job with Rolling Stone to write about a band in the early '70s.
My favorite bands, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, the Who . . . they're all here! This movie makes some mention of seemingly every good band of that era. There are even those obscure references that find their way into trivia books. (At one point Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" is reflected off a car's windshield.)
Crowe's earlier films, such as "Jerry Maguire" and "Say Anything," burst with that great '70s sound. It's no surprise that he actually grew up in that era. Even better for "Almost Famous" is that it's fairly semi-autobiographical. The young journalist who follows a fictitious band called Stillwater is based on Crowe's own experience traveling with Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Eagles, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Miller (Patrick Fugit) is not a popular guy at school. "They hate me," he says of his classmates. He's two years ahead of his class and works for a small, but respectable magazine, "Cream." Editors at Rolling Stone read his work and decide they want him to write for them. He suggests they send him to cover Stillwater, a lesser known band he met at a Black Sabbath concert.
Miller follows Stillwater from one gig to the next, trying desperately to get the band's guitarist, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), to give him a real, professional interview. Unfortunately all Russell and his bandmates want to do is party, and Miller can never quite get his questions answered.
Although there's plenty of great music in the film, the real concern is with the characters' relationships. A key character is Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Miller falls in love with Penny Lane, who in turn is in love with Hammond, and Miller must come to terms with this situation.
The story is really about a 15-year-old's journey into adulthood. Along the way Miller learns to make friends, to deal with disappointment, to make decisions and to speak out. He learns about death, about women and about love.
The film compares to this year's first great movie, "Wonder Boys." Both are about kids who go out to experience life, and after going through good times and bad, they come back as better, wiser people.
Tom Speller is a senior at East Aurora High School.