Published on July 19th, 2020 | by Noah Dimitrie0
Lazy Sunday Rewatch – Almost Famous (Director’s Cut)
Another lazy Sunday. If you’re allergic to sunshine, stay in and travel back to 1973. Stillwater and the gang are the best party in town.
“Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future.”
Almost Famous has a fragrance of romanticism that matches the cheap perfume worn by groupies like Penny Lane. Cameron Crowe’s reverence to the rock n’ roll mystique clearly remains as over the top and fanboy-ish as it presumably was when he was a teenager. Or maybe he did grow up but just wanted to wistfully recapture a certain youthful exuberance…One thing’s for certain, this film succeeds wildly in honing its perspective on the rough and tumble world of rock by way of a doughy-eyed kid, a person so sheltered from the world that any form of debauchery has a kind of magical charm.
The film enchants you with a pretty sad state of affairs—a rock band on the up and up but still driving around in a wobbly bus, bickering in between pissing contests. It’s members, Russel Hammond (Billy Crudup) and Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) are a kind of bluegrass stand-in for a Page and Plant with a dash of The Allman Brothers (after all, that is the band Crowe allegedly profiled in real life as a teen). But the rockstar existence as its presented in the film is really anything but glamorous. The film plays with the duality of sobering you to the stark realities of that lifestyle while also channeling the awe of Will (Patrick Fuget) as he experiences it from a less jaded vantage point. It remains so endearing and so endlessly rewatchable because it plays to both crowds: the rock purists who see the past with rose tinted glasses, and the more cynical adults who grew up and discovered that rock was a lot of sexed up smoke and mirrors.
Crowe has always been a romantic at heart. Just watch Say Anything or Jerry Maguire for evidence. This film knows its emotional beats like the back of its hand, and Crowe capitalizes on those opportunities with just the right pinch of sentimentality. Take the often lauded “Tiny Dancer” scene. The band has come to blows, egos have swelled, and everyone on the bus is riding in silence to their next destination. The song “Tiny Dancer” comes on the radio and one by one, they start singing along until the entire bus erupts in a collective bear-hug of musical resound. It makes you want to sing along from your couch, be apart of the magic, join the party that was this messy, beautiful chapter in pop culture history.
Recently I gave the flick a rewatch. But I went with the Director’s Cut, which adds a solid 45 minutes to its runtime, bringing it almost up to 3 hours. It’s a hot mess. It’s clear that the things that were cut needed to be in order to maintain the film’s pacing. The DC meanders around the parties, the spectacle of it all—sort of embodying the tipsy perspective of the participants. It fully indulges its appetite for nostalgia to an extent that is sometimes abundantly egregious but nevertheless charming. I wouldn’t recommend it for a first-time viewer, but as a return trip back to memory lane (or should I say Penny Lane?), it’s a hell of a good time.
I’ve always believed that you can make friends with movies. That there is an atmosphere to a good hangout movie that sucks you into its orbit, making you feel the warmth of just being one of the guys, shooting the shit. Dazed and Confused does it best, but Almost Famous might be a close runner up, especially when watching this overlong odyssey into the minutia of 70s rock’s heyday. If you want to just kick back and chill with Stillwater and the gang, hit up the Director’s Cut. It’ll make you feel like a kid again.