Kate Hudson’s new movie “Something Borrowed” opens in Davenport, Iowa on Friday, May 6th, at Rave Motion Pictures on 53rd street. The romantic comedy stars Hudson, alongside Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinski, as a pushy best friend to a mousy girl (Goodwin) who unintentionally steals the man of her best friend’s dreams.
“Something Borrowed” along with other recent headlines about Kate Hudson, including having a baby on the way, inspired this look back at Kate Hudson’s break out film, her Academy Award nominated turn in Cameron Crowe’s rock diary “Almost Famous.”
A rock n’ roll love story
A love letter to a rock n’ roll past, Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” is filled with the lyric poetry, beauty, sadness and redemption of a classic rock n’ roll record. Each character in Almost Famous plays like a single track that in unison come together to create classic record.
Ostensibly, this is Cameron Crowe’s life on screen. Crowe was a 15 year old wannabe journalist whose prodigious writing talent and love of music propelled him into the world of rock stars on the road as he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine, then the bible of rock music. In Almost Famous Cameron Crowe becomes William Miller, the perfect non-descript name to allow actor Patrick Fugit to not just stand in for Cameron Crowe but for us in the audience who are joining this journey through him.
It’s all happening
William Miller is not cool and he knows it. On the bright side, at just 15 years old he’s about to graduate High School and his writing about rock music has caught the attention of big names in rock magazines. Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) of Creem magazine is one who discovers William’s talent early on and becomes his mentor.
It is through Lester that William is assigned to cover a Black Sabbath concert in San Diego and stumbles into his big break. After being denied entry into the show, William meets the band Stillwater and after flattering their guitar god Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) gets himself pulled back stage.
The concert is a life changer as William hangs with Stillwater backstage, interviews lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and spends a few quiet moments with legendary ‘band aid’ Pennny Lane (Kate Hudson). That’s band aid and not groupie as she and her friends are quick to point out. Groupies merely sleep with rock stars, band aids inspire the music, and they exist for the love of music.
Not long after this monumental moment William is called by Rolling Stone and offered the opportunity to hit the road with Stillwater and from there Almost Famous could be simply defined as a fish out of water coming of age story but there is far more beauty and complexity to this glorious rock n’ roll romance than can be contained in such simplistic genre terms.
A beacon of innocence
Patrick Fugit was discovered by Cameron Crowe from hundreds of taped submissions from around the country. Fugit’s acting teacher in Utah submitted his tape and days later Fugit was getting a crash course in rock history as Crowe assigned him to listen to Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, The Who and the various other classic rock all stars that inspired Almost Famous.
Fugit is amazing in “Almost Famous” playing a beacon of innocence in the midst of rock decadence. Fugit acts as a window into this world, inviting us to see through his eyes what it must have been like amidst the chaos of early 1970’s rock stardom. Like him, we are an innocent in this world, unaware of the customs and the strange amorality and complex relationships.
I am a Golden God
Billy Crudup could have delivered a pat interpretation of a 70’s rock god with echoes of so many well known guitar players that are a part of our shared pop culture memory. Instead, Crudup’s Russell is a fully realized creation of the actor and his director Cameron Crowe. Crudup invests Russell with a damaged soulfulness that softens Russell even as he does things that make us dislike him a great deal.
The radiant Kate Hudson plays the object of William, Russell and our affection, legendary band aid Penny Lane. As Cameron Crowe’s camera fell madly in love with Renee Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” the camera wants to marry and live happily ever after with Hudson. The love however, is tinged with regret as Hudson’s Penny is an elusive spirit.
Pathos and heart
I would be remiss if I didn’t praise two other exceptionally important elements of “Almost Famous.” Frances McDormand, like Kate Hudson, was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in “Almost Famous” playing, essentially, Cameron Crowe’s mom. It’s a glorious performance filled with wit, intelligence, pathos and heart.
The other element I want to mention is Cameron Crowe’s directorial touches. Crowe, like the greatest of directors, has these signature moments that mark his films like a signature. The first one comes as the band bus pulls out of Topeka and a beautiful young girl waves, her eyes hazy from a night of partying with a rock star yet also misty and mournful as if aware that nights like this will never come again.
The other is a nod to Cameron Crowe’s directorial model and mentor, Billy Wilder. Crowe derives much of his humor from Wilder’s offhand bits of madcap. As Mrs. Miller, a college professor, attempts to teach her class she gets lost in thought before explaining “I’m sorry. Rock stars have kidnapped my son.” The line alone, as delivered with perfect pitch by Frances McDormand is funny enough but Crowe caps it with a shot of a note taking young student who dutifully writes down this information; a priceless comic beat.
As much as rock n’ roll is the lifeblood of “Almost Famous” poetry, romance and humanity pulse through the film as well. Cameron Crowe speaks to the soul of lovers and “Almost Famous” is his greatest love letter.