In times of reporting trouble and writer’s block, we see William turn to the seasoned Bangs, who at one point laughingly explains how to handle Fong-Torres’s questions about the story’s progress: “Tell him, you know, it’s a think piece. About a mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom. He’ll wet himself.” Watch, here, as the smarmy Fong-Torres pretty well wets himself, offering to “get [William] a thousand more words” and confirming the piece is “in consideration for the cover” (repeating, for emphasis, “the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”)

In the end—after William follows the band from Cleveland to Topeka to Greeneville to New York City, babysits Russell Hammond through a bad acid trip (the “I am a golden god!” scene), falls in love with Penny Lane and out-of-love, at least a little, with Hammond, writes in the quiet of a hotel bath tub, endures a “deflowering” at the hands of Lane’s fellow non-groupies, rescues Lane from a quaallude OD, and misses his high school graduation—William gets (thanks to the crafty, big-hearted Penny Lane) that interview with Hammond…

WILLIAM MILLER: So, Russell, what do you love about music?

RUSSELL HAMMOND: To begin with, everything.

…and, finally, the cover of Rolling Stone:

Almost Famous, chock full though it is of journalistic relics (although, Creem is mounting a newsstand comeback!), was no mawkish nostalgia trip for Crowe; it is a story—an Oscar-winning screen play— about relationships, trust, money and motivation, told with heart, told in scenes, in moments (when a certain sort of music was having its moment). One such moment—memorable, at least, for those who work in journalism—comes when Stillwater’s lead singer, enraged after being reached by a Rolling Stone fact-checker and realizing that, in William’s story, the bandmates look “like buffoons,” screams (to the band, himself, the universe): “He was never a person! He was a journalist!”

And here, one more moment (cue those goose bumps):

Last week: The Big Clock

Next up: Ace in the Hole


More in Critical Eye

The Big Clock (1948)

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.