(Check out the list so far)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A teenage writing prodigy learns sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll aren’t really all that fun; also, it’s very okay to not be cool.
Why It’s on the List: I’m not someone who listens to a lot of music, so the fact that this is now the second movie that heavily features music speaks to how interesting the characters are. Everyone in this movie is used so well. Patrick Fugit as William Miller is a bit of an empty vessel, but everyone else is to interesting and specific. Billy Crudup hasn’t had the kind of -level career one might expect, but he excels as complicated band leader Russell Hammond. No one except Kevin Smith has ever used Jason lee well, but Cameron Crowe nailed the casting of Jeff Bebe. Lee gets to play bitter and sarcastic. He also gets to do that thing where he talks and raises his voice as he speaks.
Frances McDormand plays a mom who has no idea how to raise her children in such a way that they’re balanced. She might be a college professor, but her oldest has rebelled and moved away to become a stewardess. She’s in danger of potentially losing William, too, but decides to let him explore being a rock journalist and going on the road with the band Stillwater. The film not only explores his journey but the politics of a band. We see the good, the bad, and the very ugly. One of the seminal scenes of this movie is on an airplane that nearly crashes, and everyone confesses…something.
I was literally the same age as William Miller is in this movie, so you can see why I identified with him. Part of me wanted to be a writer who covered sports. I did get to live some of this out covering indoor football and pro wrestling. Hell, I even fell down the same traps as William does. The lesson is we all need Lester Bangs whispering in our ears at all time.
*Kate Hudson is a manic pixie dreamgirl. The mom character is portrayed a schill. All other female characters are pretty much sex objects.
*The band leers at some high school girls. They even refer to them as tasty.
*Stick with me on this. If William is meant to be a surrogate for the director, then the implication he’s making is that he lost his virginity in a foursome as an underage boy to women clearly of age. In addition to the statutory rape implications, there’s also the fact that the women decide William is going to lose his virginity and don’t ask for consent. Not great.
MVP: This is one of the more personal projects a director can ever create. His love and knowledge of the music industry, especially for this time period, is quite clear. Cameron Crowe has made a couple of bonafide classics but has largely been forgotten in recent years as his output has decreased. There are many problematic elements to how Crowe portrays female characters and racial issues (See the controversy surrounding Aloha for more on that), but this is a really well told story that uses all of its cast incredibly well.
Best Performance: I can’t believe Kate Hudson didn’t come out of this movie an enormous star who had one of the greatest movie careers of all-time. Like, as big as a Julia Roberts. She’s radiant in this movie. If I were every dude in this movie, I would also have fallen in love with her. While she is a manic pixie dream girl, she plays the hell out of this role. It’s not just her looks but her delivery and ability to capture this character that makes this something special.
Best Quote: Boiling down to one quote is impossible.
Is there a sequel? No. Crowe created a show about roadies and it was terrible.
This movie was also covered on There Will Be Movies vol. 1 by Ben Phillips & Matt Waters.