Cameron Crowe deserves credit for making perfect Hollywood movies. Basically in most of his films, some flawed character makes mistake after mistake, but in the end everything works out because the character realizes his mistakes and everybody forgives him for it and lives happily every after. Audiences eat this kind of crap up. Why? Because people in general are mostly screw-ups and they want to leave the movie theater thinking that just because they beat their kids and ran their lawn mower over the neighbor's bunny, it isn't going to come back and bite them in the ass later on -- all because Renee Zellweger told Tom Cruise "you had me at hello."
This is perfectly appropriate for modern society. The less intelligent among us want to cling happily to the notion that none of our lesser actions have negative consequences. Movies reinforce this. However, when you start mucking around in actual history, as Crowe is doing here, telling everyone that they'll live happily ever after doesn't ring quite as true. The reason it's the message in this film is that Crowe lives happily ever after, being a big Hollywood director and all, and to even suggest that others in his life might not have lived happily ever after would negatively taint his view of himself.
This is a "people finding their way" story. William Miller (Patrick Fugit) gets a job with Rolling Stone in 1973 and starts hanging out with a band called Stillwater as he tries to put together his first article. His mother (Frances McDormand) freaks out, but lets him go anyway. Although there's tension between lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), the tour progresses reasonably well. During that time, William falls for self-proclaimed "band-aid" Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), who's trying to have a lasting relationship with Russell though she knows he has a girlfriend.
Russell's problem is ego. Penny's problem is delusion. Crowe's problem is that he wants everybody to be fine in the end. Nobody has any venereal diseases. There are no drug-related accidents. Everybody sings Elton John songs in the tour bus, thus bonding and preventing any serious conflicts. Is Cameron Crowe trying to tell me that a band like Stillwater would actually sing an Elton John song? And that's not the only one in the soundtrack either, which convinced me that the only reason they were worked into the film was because buying the rights to them was cheap given that John has turned into such a commercial whore. Crowe couldn't have found a better match.
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