I haven’t watched Almost Famous since I was fourteen.
I used to be friends with this girl who would throw these amazing sleepover birthday parties, because she had this ridiculous wardrobe and we would try on all of her clothes and have black light fashion shows, and then we would make ridiculous amounts of ramen noodles and cake, set up a projector and watch movies. It was really fun.
The point of me writing this is not so I can talk about this girl’s awesome sleepover birthday parties. The point of me writing this is that at her fourteenth sleepover birthday party, we watched Almost Famous.
And to be honest, I didn’t get it.
I didn’t know the music, which was all rock music from the 60s and 70s. I didn’t recognize the actors/actresses (little tweenie Amanda didn’t obsessively look up actors on Wikipedia back then like I do now). I didn’t understand what William Miller’s (the main character) problem was, or why he was so young and that his overprotective mother let him go on a trip across the country with a rock & roll band in the first place, and it made me ridiculously uncomfortable that Russell kept cheating on his girlfriend with a groupie who wouldn’t tell anyone her real name. Looking through the lens of a naive fourteen year old girl, I completely misunderstood and didn’t like the movie.
Tonight, I got to rewatch it (shoutout to Netflix) for the first time since I was fourteen, as a nineteen year old.
Maybe I didn’t recognize all of the songs, but I did know a lot of them, and the musicians that I knew I really knew, and I knew the albums in the record collection William’s sister leaves him (Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Lou Reed, etc.). I knew most, if not all of the actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rainn Wilson, Jimmy Fallon, Zooey Deschanel are just a few of my favorite random people in this movie that make it even greater.) I understood that William needed to develop his passions by writing and following his dreams of being a music journalist, and he learned how to grow up while on the road with the band, which he did by becoming independent of his mother and by losing his virginity and by falling in love. I got that his mother needed to let go of her son and let him live his life, although it still did seem a little bit weird to me that she just kind of let him go on a road trip with people that he didn’t really know and she’d never met before. And I understood that Russell really loved Penny, and that being a part of a rock & roll band kind of makes you act differently than you would in any other situation, which is why he did all those drugs and slept with a bunch of people that weren’t his girlfriend. Also, you have to consider the context of the 70s, where everything was about sex, drugs and rock & roll.
And I might be late on this bandwagon… but every single scene with (actress, not character) Kate Hudson was perfect. There’s a scene where she is walking in a concert hall after a show has just happened, trash everywhere, and she’s just sort of sliding all over the place and dancing. She’s reliving the music in her own way. The light catches the curls of her yellow hair and it’s like it’s too perfect to be real. Her character’s “name,” Penny Lane, after The Beatles’ song, makes her mysterious and girlishly innocent at the same time. She was the indirect star of the movie. She falls so desperately in love with Russell that when he hurts her by going back to his girlfriend, (because honestly, what else was he going to do?) she doesn’t even want to handle herself, and it hurts me to watch her feel that much pain. She tries to escape but keeps being pulled back in to this rock & roll world. And I feel badly for her, but I love her at the same time. When she finally sets herself free at the end of the movie and goes to Morocco, it makes me genuinely happy.
There are a lot great things about this movie, and I think that what I’m trying to get at is that I’m happy that I watched it at this age and could see how I wouldn’t have been able to understand it when I was fourteen. Maybe I still don’t get some things about it, because I’m not finished growing up yet. But I’ve gotten a little older (five years older, to be exact), and listened to a little more music and I’m more experienced and I’m trying to understand it the best that I can.
All that I know is that this movie is a really great movie. I finished watching Almost Famous, and I had that solid feeling that I have after watching a really excellent movie. I felt like that after I watched Silver Linings Playbook for the first time, I felt like that after I watched Good Will Hunting. I felt full, because I fell in love with the characters and I related to the characters in their own way, and everything just made sense to me because of that. I understood them to the best of my ability. Even if that might not be the correct understanding of the movie, it’s still what I feel about it. And it just made me feel good, to know that everything was okay.