What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that a teen girl attempts suicide. Some moderate expletives, but fairly tame given the setting. These rock musicians on the road in the 1970s engage in all the bad behavior you might expect -- drinking, casual sex, drugs -- but the behavior is never glorified and is shown to be self-destructive. The lead character loses his virginity to a trio of bored girls. Brief partial nudity. A few arguments lead to mild brawls among friends.
What's the story?
Loving, yet strict, Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand), is a single mother who distrusts rock music and fears drug use. Her children react in different ways. Anita (Zooey Deschanel) drops out of school and becomes a stewardess. William (Patrick Fugit), meanwhile, uses his love of rock & roll by writing album reviews for an underground newspaper. William gets a big break when Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), editor of renegade rock magazine Creem, hires him to cover a Black Sabbath concert. His work for that concert leads to attention from rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres (Terry Chen), who assigns William a cover-story on Stillwater. Williams joins the band on tour.
Is it any good?
Despite taking place in the middle of the raucous 1970s, ALMOST FAMOUS is a timeless coming-of-age story that will appeal to anyone regardless of whether or not they were around during the era. Teens will certainly be amused by the period fashions and attitudes, but they'll also respond to the characters, who deal with issues that have always plagued young people. Of course, this was the era of "sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll," and Almost Famous doesn't shy away from showing the excesses of life on the road. But the movie always paints them as just that -- excesses. When Russell takes advantage of his celebrity at a small-town party, his indulgence in alcohol and drugs nearly costs him his life. Penny Lane, who, like her fellow "band aids," is insulted when anyone calls her a groupie, comes to see that there's scarcely a difference. She eventually realizes that sex is not a game and not free of consequences.
Older audience members will delight in the way that Crowe (Jerry Maguire) has captured the 1970s, with a clear but affectionate eye for the styles and attitudes of the times. His use of music is especially canny; the Stillwater songs (co-written by Crowe and his wife, Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson) sound right at home with the sterling selection of actual songs from the pre-disco days. Patrick Fugit's star-making debut as the young hero William is but one of many funny and touching performances. Frances McDormand, the star of movies as diverse as Madeline and Fargo, continues to prove she's one of today's finest actors.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the "rock star" lifestyle, as it's presented here. How accurate do you think the movie is? How do you think real musicians and other celebrities handle sudden fame and fortune? How has media attention to stars changed since the time period presented here?