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Under Her Eye review: Almost Famous

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Read the shortlisted Under Her Eye reviews then vote for your favourite.

As part of Stylist’s Under Her Eye initiative, we’re on the hunt for three new female film critics. We asked aspiring reviewers to send in a 450-word review of their favourite film – and after an overwhelming response, we’ve whittled it down to a shortlist of 20. 

Read one woman’s review of Almost Famous below and click here to see the other entries and vote for your favourite.

“If you ever get lonely, you just go to the record store and visit your friends”, says “Penny Lane” to William; the teenager who has scored the job of a lifetime touring with and interviewing faux rock band Stillwater for Rolling Stone magazine. Almost Famous, set in 1973, is based loosely on director Cameron Crowe’s own experiences touring with bands of the time (think of Stillwater as a sort of Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers and the Eagles mashup).

William is branded “the enemy” by the band, the difference is, William is just 15 years old and poses no real threat to anyone. Soon he becomes a part of the furniture amongst the somewhat wiggy group of musicians and female fans, promising his mother he’ll be home before his exams, cut to his graduation coming and going. This is supposed to feel like pure rock and roll hedonism but it’s certainly more cosy nostalgia than anything else. The scene in which the crew ride the tour bus and sing Tiny Dancer has needless to say solidified the Elton John song in the “this makes my heart feel nice” song category for me forever.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Lester Bangs and is brilliantly cast if underused as William’s mentor from the “real world”. Enter the not-so-in-the real world “Penny Lane” played by Kate Hudson, a wide-eyed, infamous groupie. She is invited along for the ride by Russell, Stillwater’s handsome bass player with a girlfriend back home.

Penny Lane is the kind of girl I wanted to be when I was younger and not wiser, she enters rooms with all eyes on her and her round coloured specs all whilst saying pithy but vague one-liners. On watching this at an age when I am most definitely older and wiser, she is an incredibly irritating, attention-seeking vision of a man’s rock n roll fantasy. She lacks any real depth and it’s a shame that this is the person we and William are encouraged to fall in love with. With that being said it’s probably pretty in tune with what young boys imagine these girls to be like. A manic guitar fan dream girl if you will.

It’s all a bit silly but at the heart there is real joy in this teenager’s journey in becoming a man whilst other men around him struggle to do so too. Ultimately, the film questions how we measure and define success and highlights the importance of remaining truthful, whether that is to yourself or to other people. The most important and compelling relationship in the film ends up being the bond between Mother and Son rather than with the characters encountered on tour. It’s not perfect but it will warm your heart if you are a sucker for the the Seventies music scene and the age-old story of a kid just trying to be taken seriously in an adult world. 

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