Almost Famous: Untitled

Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 42 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A+

I would give this new cut of "Almost Famous" a higher grade, if such were possible to do. But since I gave it the highest possible grade on my first review, there is nowhere to go. The amazing thing about this statement is that I thought "Almost Famous" was about as close as possible to perfection the first time I watched it. (In retrospect, it is the best film of 2000, I don't know what I was smoking when I bestowed that honor to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", just ignore that, okay?) The original version of the film made me laugh as hard, feel as much, and enthralled me more than any film in a long time. So I was more than a little shocked when the "Untitled" cut of this film did the job even better.

"Almost Famous", for you poor unenlightened wretches out there who haven't dipped a toe into its magnificence, is the tale of William Miller. William is a high school student with a love for journalism and rock and roll. At the tender age of fifteen, he gets the opportunity to write for "Rolling Stone" magazine. He gets the chance to tour with the band "Stillwater". He gets to see behind the scenes of rock and roll. He gets to see, if you will, the lowly man behind the great and powerful Oz. He sees his idols warts and all and gets the chance to report on it. He also gets a crash course in Life, Love, Music and other essential elements. He has a wealth of tutors and influences in the course of this story, and he experiences a cavalcade of emotions and is put to a number of tests. He falls in love with a beautiful young "Band Aid" named Penny Lane (the magically enchanting Kate Hudson) and has mixed emotions toward the band's lead guitarist, Russell Hammond (the solid and remarkable Billy Crudup).

"Almost Famous" and this cut "Untitled" are essentially the story of a young man running off to join the circus. It's just been updated for our day and age. He is bewildered by this scene and longs to be a part of it, to experience it and share a distillation of that experience with others. It is about a young man living out his dreams, only to discover that his dreams aren't always what they are cracked up to be. It is about the sights and sounds of a period in time, captured and preserved on film for posterity. It is, most obviously, a labor of love on the part of director Cameron Crowe. Watching the commentary, one's suspicions of the film's accuracy are only confirmed. An astounding amount of this story actually happened to him, and he was bold in the way he wanted to bring it to the screen. And he succeeded miraculously.

Even though this new cut of the film is over thirty minutes longer, it still breezes by. Unlike "Apocalypse Now Redux", which took a great movie and showed you exactly why editors are an important part of the process (The new cut of that film was fifty minutes longer and about twenty minutes worse), "Untitled" simply takes a film that was already perfection and adds subtle and delicate bits of shading to it. It enhances the film, giving many of the performances and incidents contained within it even more resonance and nuance. It fleshes out many of the characters in even greater detail. It adds a new light to several moments in the movie. It adds depth to a film that was already poignantly deep and wonderful. The film never runs the danger of bogging down. It never grows stale. At the end of this film, we are still left wanting more.

The new cut of "Almost Famous" still achieves a miracle of sorts in our modern cinematic atmosphere. Not only does it involve us from the first frame to the last and beyond. Not only does it reaffirm our faith in life and rock and roll. Not only does it contain passages of simple magic. But it leaves us wanting more, not less. So many films these days are good, but could have used five or ten or even sixty minutes of trimming. "Almost Famous" makes us long for a little more time with these people. It leaves wanting to know more, feel more, be there for more of their lives. That is its simple magic. That is its wonder. Even though there are some moments of sadness and a couple moments of despair and frustration (which are so brilliantly captured you can only sigh with understanding), you wouldn't trade a second of the experience for the world.

Neither, I suspect, would Mr. Crowe.