I watched Almost Famous for the first time when I was 17 and doing an independent study in History of Cinema. It had nothing to do with the course, but I had read about it on a few different occasions, and knew my dad liked the movie, and thought it would be at least a decent movie for me to see. I rented it from Netflix and it took me about a week until I finally found the time to watch it.
It is now my favorite movie of all time.
Almost Famous strikes a chord in me, and I’m not quite sure I can explain it to people that don’t connect to music as well as I do. (That’s not to play to elitism, that’s just something I’ve discovered.) Those that truly connect to and love music also love Almost Famous. They love the movie because they understand the underlying commentary running through the film: music brings you home, music helps you find yourself, and music can heal you and help you in ways you never thought possible.
Penny Lane is a role model for me. Before you roll your eyes and become skeptical of my opinion, let me explain. Yes, she probably doesn’t make the best choices in the world. But this is a 16 year-old girl who is simply at these concerts because the music and the lyrics these bands have created have shaped her life and helped her get to the point she is at in her young adult life. Who hasn’t had that experience with a band or an artist? Every fan of an artist, a band, is there, as they so aptly put it in the film, “because of the music.” Band Aids aren’t there to offer physical pleasure to the band members, they are there to talk to them and inspire the music and see those lyrics they’ve listened to in their bedrooms come to life.
Almost Famous let me know I was not alone. Almost Famous let me know that no matter what generation, what time period, what band I was into, there were people that understood. People that, as Jeff says in the film, offer a voice that says, “Here I am, and fuck you if you can’t understand me.” Those lyrics that come out on stage will help you, and heal you, and make you understand something you couldn’t possibly have understood twenty minutes before listening to that particular song.
Almost Famous taught me about friendships. And how your best friends aren’t from high school, or elementary school, or college, but they are from the record store, the ones that come warbling out of speakers and into headphones. And that’s not being said in a condescending, sad way that is meant to bring you down, but when you sit and think about it, have you ever gotten more relatable advice from your in person friends than from song lyrics? Maybe you have, but you cannot deny the fact that there are songs that hit the nail on the head. There are several songs that I have listened to that helped me more than any friend in my real life, and I am not ashamed to admit that. Lyrics just hit closer to home sometimes.
Almost Famous taught me that it’s okay to laugh things off, and not take anything too seriously. There’s that iconic quote from Penny Lane herself, “I always tell the girls, never take it seriously; you never take it seriously, you always have fun, you always have fun, you never get hurt, and if you ever get lonely, you can go to the record store and visit your friends.” It’s okay to lighten the mood. It’s okay to let your inner emotions come out when the music is playing, and hide away with your headphones. It’s okay to let music seep into your very veins.
Almost Famous has shaped who I am today. It has given me different perspectives on life, comforted me when I’ve been down, and shown me that I am not alone in feeling like music can save lives. At the end of the day, each character teaches one valuable lesson throughout the film, and if you only have time to watch one part of the film during your free time, watch that one part. It will be worthwhile and it will give you wonderful advice in every aspect of your life. Take a minute, escape, and let yourself know that you are not alone in your love for music and lyrics and the ability to heal.