April 16, 2001
I finally caught "Almost Famous," winner of the 2000 Oscar for "Best Original Screenplay," on video, and I'm very glad I didn't bother seeing it in a theater when it came out. My reason for not seeing new movies when they first come out is that I don't need to have all the arguments that immediately ensue when I dislike the new film that everybody is pointlessly drooling over simply because it's new. New does not equal good to me and it never will.
In my utterly humble opinion, "Almost Famous" is not only a poorly conceived, and even more poorly written screenplay, it's a nasty, hypocritical piece of writing. As a student of history, I find it particularly offensive in its revisionist view of history.
Am I supposed to actually believe there were groupies touring with a big rock band that were NOT screwing the rock stars? I'd say that's complete revisionist nonsense. It's like someone read an early draft of Cameron Crowe's script and told him that the groupies were not sympathetic because of their loose morals, so he simply changed it. Am I also supposed to believe that the young rock journalist character was not taking any drugs at all? Give me a
big break. Since he so desperately wants interviews and a story, I think he'd do whatever was necessary to ingratiate himself to the rockers, and that means partying with them, which in 1973 certainly meant taking drugs. His not taking any drugs at all is modern-day, looking-back, trying-to-sell-more-tickets, crap!
Since we are dealing with real publications like Creem Magazine and Rolling Stone Magazine, and their real editors, why must we then sit through scene after scene with the fake band called Stillwater and their smash big hit song, "Fever Dog," (which sounds like a Benny Hill routine to me). And between this phoniness we are given a glimpse of David Bowie's back, hear that Led Zepplin is
Creedance Stillwater Revival and their
monster hit, "Fever Dog."
somewhere in the house, and keep hearing a lot of Elton John songs. After just a few minutes I wanted to scream.
As I have previously elucidated in my essay "Verisimilitude," the truth in a story is in regard to the world the writer has chosen to present. If you choose the milieu of policemen working in a large city, you will undoubtedly have to use pistols as props whether you like it or not. Cops use guns. If you don't like guns, don't tell stories about cops. If you tell stories about big rock bands in 1973 and their groupies, you are telling stories about drugs and sex, whether you like it or not.
The Virgin Groupies.
What makes all of this way worse to me, and indeed pure hypocrisy, is that the point of "Almost Famous" is -- a writer must tell the truth, no matter what. Well, that doesn't just mean in a piece of rock journalism (where we all know truth is a sacred commodity), it also happens to apply to screenwriting, too. If the point is telling the truth, then why not tell the fucking truth! Is this supposed to be the Allman Brothers Band? Or is it Creedance Clearwater Revival? Perhaps I've always been confused, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the definition of a groupie was: one who has sex with rock stars. And if you are hanging with rock stars in 1973, you are doing drugs. Lots of them. Period. All
else is mendacity. Untruths. Lies. Horseshit. And not the stuff from which good stories are woven.
Beyond any of that, a lot might well be forgiven in a story if the lead characters are even slightly charismatic or charming. Sadly, the lead kid and the lead groupie's characters are so woefully underdeveloped that, as usual in nearly all modern movies, I simply did not care in the slightest. And I don't know about you, but if I don't care, then it all just don't mean nothin' nohow.