In 1973 as rock 'n' roll begins its long slide into soulless corporate mediocrity 15-year- old music fanatic William Miller (Patrick Fugit) stumbles into the opportunity to profile Stillwater an archetypal up-and-coming band for Rolling Stone magazine. Joining the group's magical mystery bus tour the young hero gets a whiff of the sex-and-drugs lifestyle witnesses the tension between the band's talented guitarist (Billy Crudup) and touchy lead singer (Jason Lee of Chasing Amy) and falls for a groupie (ethereal Goldie Hawn spawn Kate Hudson). But will he ever get his story written? The ensemble is delightful across the board from newcomer Fugit's adorable work as the wide-eyed protagonist to the confident turn by Crudup (Jesus' Son) as a potential rock star torn by the eternal dilemma of art vs. commerce. Supporting players wringing every humorous drop out of their parts include Frances McDormand (Fargo) as William's demanding mom and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Magnolia) as his cynical rock-journalist mentor. Writer-director Cameron Crowe's follow-up to Jerry Maguire boasts the same smart style and affection for its richly drawn characters that defined his earlier hit. Based on his own experiences as a music journalist Almost Famous captures the essence of this turning point in pop history with a nirvana of music-trivia references and a soundtrack that is a veritable greatest-hits compilation of early '70s rock. (Crowe's wife Nancy Wilson of Heart contributes the evocative original score.) Equally effective in its dramatic and comedic moments the film should cement Crowe's reputation as a first-rate storyteller in the best mainstream Hollywood tradition.