William: What do you love about music?
Russell: To begin with... Everything.
is a coming-of-age
film directed by Cameron Crowe
released in the year 2000, loosely based on
Crowe's own teenage years as a music critic.
The plot follows the experiences of Author Avatar
William Miller, an aspiring teenage rock journalist
who gets sucked headfirst into the world of rock when he goes on tour with a band named "Stillwater". In addition to the band itself, he becomes acquainted with its groupies and gets a good look at what happens underneath the glamorous exterior that most people are presented with.
This film provides examples of:
- Acting Your Intellectual Age: William is a 15-year-old who's touring with a rock band.
How old are you? William:
Me too! (beat
) How old are you really? William:
Seventeen. Penny: Me too! William:
Actually I'm sixteen. Penny: Me too!
Isn't it funny? The truth sounds so different. William:
(a little quieter
) I'm fifteen.
- Adorkable: William.
- Age Cut
- Almighty Mom
- Ascended Fanboy: William in-universe.
- Author Avatar: William Miller = Cameron Crowe.
- Author Appeal: Crowe has long believed in The Power of Rock, and that's summed up near the end, when Sapphire is slamming the other groupies (as opposed to other Band-Aids like her):
Sapphire: They don't even know what it is to be a fan. Y'know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.
- Butt Monkey: William.
- California Doubling: The film was shot in and around Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA, Crowe's hometown. Much of the film is set there, but the parts that aren't were also filmed there. The San Diego Sports Arena appears both as itself and as a stand-in for several other concert venues throughout the film.
- Christmas In September: William's mother does this so they can celebrate the holiday "without commercialism".
- Creator Cameo: That's Cameron Crowe's hand writing names on a notepad in the opening credits.
- Crowd Song: "Hold me closer, tiny dancer..."
- Dead Air: During a radio interview scene where the overnight DJ, higher than a very high thing, falls asleep and the band being interviewed realizes the air is dead. Not for long, though.
- Deconstruction: This entire film is a deconstruction on the illusion of rock-star life. It seems glamorous at first, but then the fame starts getting to your head and you start doing stupid things that you would never do in the right mind. Fame leads to an illusion of invulnerability and often creates tension between band members (often brought on by record execs to force them to create a big radio hit against the will of the band member's better judgement or creative being all for the sake of profit). It just goes to show that the rock-star life is nothing more than a gilded cage.
- Diegetic Switch: The famous "Tiny Dancer" sing-a-long is a reversed example of this. When the song starts it's clearly soundtrack music: the opening bars start before Russell gets on the bus and continue as the bus leaves Topeka and reaches Kansas farmland. Then, when the drummer starts beating time with the song, it becomes clear that the song is playing on the bus as diegetic music.
- Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: Russell Hammond does this when he finally sits down to give William an interview.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: The in-universe example of Russell Hammond, who upstages the band leader without even trying. One of the incidents exposing the underlying tension within the band is when their first T-shirts prominently feature him instead of the lead singer.
- Fanboy/Fangirl: Numerous, numerous in-movie examples.
William: Don't you have any regular friends?
Penny: Famous people are just more interesting.
- Fish out of Water: At first, William.
- Band-Aid Brigade: "IT'S BOWIE!"
- Homage: In addition to many events taken directly from real life (e.g. the scene where the band's plane almost crashes happened while director Crowe was touring with The Who), the movies is full of homages to rock bands and albums. The scene where one of the Stillwater members is shocked by his microphone is a possible shout out to Keith Relf of the Yardbirds, who died after being electrocuted by improperly grounded music equipment. Some scenes are also framed to look like or include references to album covers, such as a shot of the crowd at the first Stillwater concert that's made to look like the cover to Neil Young's "Time Fades Away."
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The band's name is Stillwater. The Rolling Stone article? "Stillwater Runs Deep".
- Insistent Terminology: The groupies are not groupies. They are, in fact, "band-aids."
- Intoxication Ensues: "I AM A GOLDEN GOD!"
- Ironic Echo: "Here I am, telling secrets to the one person I shouldn't be telling them."
- It Will Never Catch On:
"If you think Mick Jagger will still be out there trying to be a rock star at age fifty, then you are sadly, sadly mistaken."
- Lennon Specs: Penny Lane wears these (and one of the advertising posters was a closeup of Kate Hudson wearing them).
- Lost Him in a Card Game: One of the band members bets their groupies.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Just a few: William, Penny, Russel Hammond, Elaine, Jeff Bebe, Anita, Saphire, Dick, Lester Bangs and Ben Fong-Torres.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Penny Lane is a deconstruction of this — she uses her quirky, upbeat attitude to hide her inner loneliness and hurt, something that becomes painfully apparent at the end of the movie. Unsurprisingly, it was a later Cameron Crowe film that inspired the Trope Namer. Crowe is awfully fond of this trope.
- My Beloved Smother: Elaine, William's mother, though subverted to some degree: She's portrayed sympathetically.
- Cameron Crowe's mother was on the set for most of the scenes "she" was in, and participated in the DVD Commentary.
- Nature Abhors a Virgin/Three-Way Sex: "Let's deflower the kid."
- Not on the List
- Nothing But Hits: Anita leaves William her record collection, which apparently consists entirely of well-known, critically-acclaimed rock albums that have stood the test of time and remain instantly recognizable to contemporary audiences.
- Semi-averted with the actual soundtrack to the movie, with throws in such lesser-known gems as Cat Stevens' "The Wind" and The Beach Boys' "Feel Flows" alongside the expected classics.
- Not So Final Confession: The scene where a plane apparently is about to crash during a thunderstorm, and passengers thinking they'll die start this.
- The Obi-Wan: Lester Bangs.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Penny Lane.
- The Quiet One: Stillwater's drummer. His only line happens to be utterly hilarious.
- Real Person Cameo: Cameron Crowe's mother is handing out diplomas at the graduation ceremony that William Miller misses.
- William sees Jann Wenner in the back seat of a cab while he's chasing after Penny.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: William gives an epic one to the band for their treatment of Penny. All while the plane they were on was hitting turbulence.
William: "That groupie"? She was a Band-Aid! All she did was love your band. And you used her, all of you! You used her and threw her away! She almost died last night while you were with Bob Dylan. You guys, you're always talking about the fans, the fans, the fans; she was your biggest fan, and you threw her away! And if you can't see that, that's your biggest problem. And I love her! I love her!
- Rule of Pool: Russell Hammond takes a high dive and everyone else at the party joins in.
- Running Gag: "I talked to your Mom, she freaked me out."
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Lester Bangs teaches William how to use this tactic to sucker editors.
- The Seventies: 1973, to be exact.
- '70s Hair: Almost everyone.
- Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Not that William actively attempts to lose his virginity — that's taken care of for him.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll
- Sexy Packaging: You see it on◊ video◊ first◊? Three guesses why you rented that film...
- Shout-Out: Numerous throughout the movie.
- Many real rock-and-roll personalities are actual characters in the movie, or implied to be just off-screen. Lester Bangs drops these left and right. Penny Lane is a nod to The Beatles and is also is loosely based on a real person. At one point William is trying to interview Black Sabbath. On a couple of different occasions, he encounters groupies chasing after David Bowie, Robert Plant, or Jimmy Page. And Penny is sold to Humble Pie.
Hey, why didn't you come back to the party last night? Bob Dylan
showed up. He was sitting at our table for what had to be an hour or something, right, Dick? Dick:
Just rapping. Bob Dylan at our fucking table.
- "Stillwater" is possibly a play on Creedence Clearwater Revival, and maybe Crosby, Stills & Nash.
- Word of God on the dvd commentary says the brief shot of a man and a woman playing guitar and singing in a hotel room are Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
- And in the same hotel, he is told to "Blow me!" by comedian Leonard Barr (the real Leonard Barr played Shady Tree in Diamonds are Forever).
- Jason Lee looks like a doppelganger of Free-era Paul Rodgers.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Stevie Wonder's dreamily romantic "My Cherie Amour" plays as William watches Penny get her stomach pumped following her overdose on pills.
- Title Drop: Sign on the front of the Stillwater tour bus.
- Watch Out for That Tree!: Sapphire, while running alongside Stillwater's tour bus to give William a message, runs straight into a wall. Thankfully averted near the end of the movie where William runs along with Penny's plane as it takes off.