Reviewed by: Carole McDonnell
2 hr. 3 min.
Year of Release:
“Almost Famous” is a semi-autobiographical film by Cameron Crowe that will test the Christian’s ability to divide soul from spirit. It is a coming-of-age movie that concerns itself with a particular time and age, the seventies. And it is a sturdy teenage movie that shows a parent’s attempt to give her child wings to soar and at the same time, roots to anchor him. It is a movie about controlled hero worship.
In the film, young William Miller (Patrick Fugit) manages to finagle his way into a rock band’s inner circle. The band is called Stillwater and is “Almost Famous” It has its collection of rock star types, but these rock stars are a gentle seventies bunch, oozing a kind of flower-children innocence, and that means well. William is supposed to be doing an article on Stillwater for Rolling Stone. This makes him an enemy. The editors at the magazine warn him that he is not to become “friends” with the band. The band tells him that reporters are “the enemy” and should not be trusted and it would be good of him to write a friendly piece. And his mother Elaine, (Frances McDormand) a college philosophy professor, wants him to stay away from drugs and to not lose his bearings. William, who is only 15, is in the middle of temptation and in the middle of a teenage life crisis and he’s loving most of it.
William excuses the lies, deceptions, self-deceptions, sexual infidelities and ego battles of the group. After all, they are artists and artists are allowed these foibles. He does have one problem, though. He is in love with the groupie who calls herself “Penny Lane” (Kate Hudson) and this groupie is in love with the band member William has gotten closest to, Russell the guitarist with mystique (Billy Crudup). William’s love for Penny and the constant calls from his stressed mother are the anchor that keep him from falling utterly into a worship of this band.
The Apostle Paul tells us that the word divides between the soul and spirit and this movie is a movie that will challenge even the most discerning of Christians. There are many good reasons for liking this extremely likable movie and there are reasons that will cause many Christians to dislike it. Firstly, there is a great deal of sex, drugs, and rock and rolling going on. William actually gets “deflowered” by several groupies. Secondly, the movie tackles a complicated topic: human worship and human idealism. The point unfortunately is that the idealism is so secular… even the philosophical goodness of the mother is secular. Religion is not in the picture.
Most importantly, this film touches the human soul. It’s about a sweet kid who is respectful of his mother and trying to be good in a world of temptation. His aspirations are worldly aspirations …he has a dream and an ideal. “Almost Famous” speaks of community and connectedness (the scene in the bus where they all sing along with an Elton John tape is great stuff for the soul) and yet it is a connectedness that Christians can’t really join in. This group wants peace and love but… God is not the center. The movie reminds me of the Olympic games: we see the greatness of human nature and feel the human need for some kind of earthly glory. And yet, when we step back, we realize, as Willliam Miller does in this film, that all that glitters is not gold. This film touches the soul, but because Christ is not in it, it doesn’t really touch the spirit.