We all have that one song/film that acts as kind of a comfort food and I’m no exception. When I’ve had a particularly rubbish day or week, there’s nothing I love more than settling down in my PJs in bed/on the sofa, under a duvet, with my choice of comfort food (mashed potato, chopped tomato, grated cheese – FYI) and watching my “comfort film”. This is my idea of heaven.My film is the Cameron Crowe classic Almost Famous.
Starring Hollywoods darling Kate Hudson, acting legend Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup, the late and very talented Philip Seymour Hoffman and a very young Zooey Deschanel, this film is set in the heady music led 70’s and depicts the coming of age of music journalist and protege of legendary music writer, Lester Bangs (Hoffman), 15 year old William Miller (Patrick Fugit). William goes on the road with fictitious rock band (and his musical heros) Stillwater who are set to explode onto the music scene with the intention of interviewing the band and deliver his debut piece to Rolling Stone editor, Ben Fong Torres. While on the road, William falls for rock star
groupie BAND AID Miss Penny Lane (Hudson), who is infamous for travelling the country with a variety of bands but happens to have fallen for the Stillwater “guitarist with mystique” Russell Hammond (Crudup). Hello awkward love triangle. To make things even more awkward, Russell has a girlfriend (“and I can’t even say her name”) – and so the triangle becomes a square…
I think one of the reasons why this film quickly became my favourite film of all time and never gets old is Hudson’s portrayal of Penny Lane. Despite the film being centered around the “coming of age” of William, I think the journey you go on with Penny as a character is heartbreaking. Despite her wild and hedonistic lifestyle and the front that she puts up of being this uber cool and free spirited girl that all the guys fall in love with, her relationship with Russell really shows the vulnerability and naivety of a young girl in love.
I feel as though every single girl who watches this film can relate to Penny, because I’m sure every girl has:
a) been “in love” with a guy in a band (be it Kurt Cobain or a member of One Directon) so we all know the raw magnetism that Russell would have
b) been “in love” with a guy who means everything to you, but however much they may act all mysterious and into you and come out with lines like “I’m never as good as when you’re there”, they’d still sell you to Humble Pie for 50 bucks and crate of Heineken.
c) had someone like William on the sidelines who’s madly in love with you and would treat you like a princess, but you ignore them in favour of a Russell Hammond type guy. Only to be broken hearted by the bad guy.
Where music simply becomes an add on to a film and provides elevator music so to speak, the Almost Famous soundtrack weaves throughout this film and holds the whole storyline together. Take the music away and the whole film loses part of its charm and magic, it almost becomes another member of the cast. This is the only complete soundtrack that I own (bar Dirty Dancing, of course) and each and every song gives me goosebumps. You know how I talked about comfort films and songs? This soundtrack acts like a comfort blanket for me. .
The beautifully simple and pure pop poetry “America” from Simon and Garfunkel which foreshadows the plot of the entire movie (William travelling throughout America) is my most beloved from the Almost Famous soundtrack. Reasoning? I can’t put my finger on it. Each and every time I hear it it brings a smile to my lips and gives me this Ready-Brek-in-my-stomach warm and content feeling – and isn’t that exactly what is magical about the power of music?
The unmistakeable “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John which as a song on its own stands the test of time, but when brought together with the storyline (Russell returning to the tour bus half naked and on a comedown from too much acid and jumping in a pool) it creates an iconic scene within a film which is an integral vibre within popular culture – even film buff Dawson references in Dawsons Creek. A band on a tour bus, on the road, with a handful of friends, band aids and rock writer in their midst, this is the scene where Penny tells William… “You are home”, and I think anyone who has watched this film and enjoyed it like I did felt exactly the same way. That it was like home.
Cat Stevens “The Wind” has a fleeting but significant appearance within the film and if you’ve seen the film its unlikely that you;ll be able to listen to this song without seeing Penny Lane skating bare foot amongst the concert paraphernalia of an empty auditorium whilst holding a rose. From the group of girls who once said (of non music fans) “they don’t know what it’s like, to truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” – I find this this scene truly eptitomises Penny’s love for not only Stillwater as a band, but also the music of the era.
This soundtrack, which along with those three stand out songs (+ original song “Feverdog” from the fictional band Stillwater) also houses the musical stylings of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart and Joni Mitchell. Listening to this alone in my room or with my earphones on on a train or even more fittingly, a bus, I could easily be Miss Penny Lane on the Almost Famous tour bus. High waisted jeans on, a floaty blouse, corkscrew curls and a toolbox handbag. Take me back in time to those years where everything was just so much more relaxed and simple and music sounded like this.
“It’s all happening.”
* this is my entry to the #CurrysMovieNight competition – to find out more information on how to win big by sharing your favourite movie soundtrack, visit their website here