Almost Famous is one of those movies that I could watch a million times, and I probably have. I watched it last night.
It was the first “grown up” movie I remember really loving. Almost Famous wasn’t made for kids, or teenagers. I was twelve and just in love with this movie. Not any of the characters, just the movie. The soundtrack, and the beautiful cinematography and the cool coming of age story.
I’ve stood on top on things and shouted, “I am a golden god!” (Usually rocks on one of those landscaped pools), and I’ve run barefoot through a hotel lobby while my cousin in law Christine squealed, “Oh my God! It’s all happening!”
But what I’ve taken away from the movie this time are the two philosophies espoused by the mentor characters, Penny Lane and Lester Bangs. They both impart wisdom to young William Miller. (Who I kind of want to be, when I grow up)
Penny’s philosophy is simple, “I always tell the girls, don’t take it seriously. If you don’t take it seriously, you never get hurt. If you never get hurt you always have fun. And if you ever get lonely, you go down to the record store and visit your friends.”
Of course this philosophy relates deeply to Penny’s role as a “band aid” a sort of evolved groupy who believes that falling in love with a rock star is great, but only if he’s actually really talented, as Russell Hammond, her guitarist lover is. Penny turns out to be something of a hypocrite, because she does take her romance with Russell seriously and does get seriously hurt. But it’s still all about the music for her, which is what William takes away.
Then there’s Lester Bangs’s philosophy, imparted to William during a late night tearful phone call, when Russell and the rest of Stillwater have torpedoed his story for Rolling Stone: “The only real currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone when you’re both uncool.”
I love this. As a self proclaimed nerd, a frequent outsider, and someone who felt isolated during adolescence, (so you know, an adolescent) I think about this a lot, and it makes sense to me. The best friends I’ve had have been people I dork out with. My old college roommate Jen and I got close as she tried to introduce me to Star Trek and I tried to introduce her to Kevin Smith movies. Chrissy and I spend more time dissecting Doctor Who than we do anything else. My friend John and I have an entire relationship based on our mutual love of superheroes.
Meanwhile, the “friends” I made when I was doing the whole mainstream college partying thing (my sophomore year) quickly left my life. I don’t bear ill will towards these people. I had fun with them and everything. But there was nothing real about those friendships. In fact, I knew that I couldn’t really be close to them when we watched Juno one night and I thought it was hilarious and couldn’t wait to watch it again, and one of the girls said, “Really? I thought it was stupid, I mean, she was so weird.”
Of course Juno is stupid and yeah, she is really weird. But I felt like I could have been friends with her. These girls also didn’t understand the appeal of Veronica Mars or why I cried over not being cast in a production of Godspell. I’m not saying they did’t have things to geek out over, I’m just saying we didn’t have those things in common, so we never really bonded.
“The only real currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone when you’re both uncool.”
This is how I’m going to approach friendships from now on, and when I think about it how I’ve been approaching them all along.