? 2001 by Raymond Weschler
William Miller……………………………………..Patrick Fugit
A sweet and very smart 15 year old kid (in 1973) who wants to
be a rock‟n‟roll critic and write for Rolling Stone magazine.
Elaine Miller………………………………………….Frances McDormand
William‟s very nervous and conservative mother, a college professor, who
is always worried that her children are going to take illegal drugs.
Anita Miller……………………………………………Zoey Deschanel
William‟s older sister who decides to leave home when she is still
very young because she can no longer accept living with her mother.
Russell Hammond…………………………………..Billy Crudup
The guitarist and most well known musician in the (fictional) hard rock
group Stillwater, which is trying to become a superstar group even though
their music is fairly typical and not very good.
Jeff Bebe…………………………………………………….Jason Lee
The lead singer for Stillwater, who is convinced that rock music
in general, and his group in particular, is deeply important.
“Penny Lane” (Lady Goodman)……………….Kate Hudson
A 16 year old fan of the group who is in love with Russell, who travels
around the country when they are on tour. Girls like her are usually called
“groupies,” but she prefers the term “Band-Aid.”
A friend of Penny and one of the Band-Aids following Stillwater.
Lester Bangs……………………………………………….Phillip Hoffman
A well-known rock critic who writes for Cream magazine, who is
convinced that great rock‟n‟roll is being killed by bad groups like
Stillwater, and record companies who only care about making money.
Ben-Fong Torres………………………………………..Terry Chen
A well known editor for Rolling Stone magazine
who hires William to write an article on Stillwater.
Dick Roswell……………………………………………..Noah Taylor
Stillwater‟s inexperienced British manager.
Dennis Hope……………………………………………..Jimmy Fallon
A new more experienced manager that Stillwater‟s
record company hires to help lead the group.
This film is the story of a sweet and very smart kid who loves rock music, and
whose dream is to be a rock music writer. Most of the film takes place in 1973,
when William Miller is 15, and when he sets out to write an article about an
increasingly popular rock group called Stillwater. They are typical of the hard
rock groups of that period, in that they are loud and seductive, but not nearly as
good as the classic 1960s groups that came before them (such as the Beatles and
the Rolling Stones). Regardless, Stillwater is a fictional group, although they are
very similar to such real 1970s bands as Bad Company or Grand Funk Railroad.
And in fact, William himself is really Cameron Crowe in real life, the writer and
director of this film, who began writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early
1970s when he was just 15.
While trying to get an interview with members of Stillwater, William meets
several young female fans who travel around the country with the band. Most
people would call them “groupies” because they sleep with the band members,
but they like to think of themselves as “Band-Aids.” One of these Band-Aids is
Penny Lane (a nickname taken from the Beatle song), who is in love with Russell,
Stillwater‟s lead guitarist. As William joins all of them on the road, he soon learns
that rock stars are not always as “cool” as they seem to be, and that if girls like
Penny are not careful, they can be easily hurt by the stars that they love.
This is an excellent look at the “rock‟n‟roll scene” of the early 1970s, and as such,
captures a time when the ideals and dreams of the 1960s had passed,
and music was in the process of becoming a very big business.
A note on Lester Bangs and Ben-Fong Torres: These two are in fact real people, and both were well known writers who were considered among the first
important rock critics.
Some Rock Names You should Recognize: The following are rock stars from the 1960s and 70s that are referred to in the film.
Simon and Garfunkel
The Doors/Jim Morrison
The Guess Who
The Rolling Stones/Mick Jagger
The Stillwater Tour: William follows the group around the United States, as they
visit both small towns and big cities. In approximate order, they go the following
San Diego, California
Los Angeles, California
New York City
Some Words and Expressions that You May not Know
1969: William’s mom and sister fight the 1960s cultural wars….
Atticus Finch; He stands up for the right thing.
“Atticus Finch” is the main character in the movie “To Kill A
Mockingbird,” about racism in the American South (Atticus‟ daughter is
named Boo Radley). “To stand up for” something is to support it in words
and actions, even if it is unpopular or difficult to do.
She killed everybody else so that her son Tiberous could
inherit the throne---just like Nixon. It‟s awfully common.
“To inherit the throne” is to become King or Queen, after the current one
has died. “To inherit” something is to get legal rights to it after the
previous owner dies. A “throne” is the legal word for the power
associated with being a King or Queen. “Awfully” is a widely used adverb
which means very.
“Soy” is a healthy vegetable substance, but it is almost never served as a
“cutlet,” which usually refers to a big cut of meat, such as pork chops.
You‟ve been kissing…..I can tell.
Note that the verb “to tell” is often used to mean know or sense.
It is about drugs and promiscuous sex. :: Simon and Garfunkel is poetry.
A reference to sexual activity outside of one‟s principal sexual partner.
A person who is promiscuous usually sleeps with many people.
Honey, they‟re on pot.
A common way to refer to the drug marijuana.
A type of cheap sliced lunch meat, popular with school children.
Celebrating Christmas on a day in September because it‟s too commercialized? What else are you going to ban?
If a holiday is “commercialized,” it has become an excuse for buying lots of
gifts, instead of celebrating the original meaning. “To ban” something is to
prevent it or make it illegal. A key verb in politics.
You want to rebel against knowledge; I‟m trying to give
you the Cliff‟s Notes on how to live life in this world.
“To rebel” against something is to fight or rise up against it (often people
rebel against a government). “Cliff‟s Notes” are well known study guides
that summarize books and other materials for students.
You use knowledge to keep us down. I‟m a „yes‟ person and you‟re trying to raise us in a „no‟ environment.
“To keep a person down” is to limit their freedom or oppress them.
The second sentence is Anita‟s way of telling her mom that she is a person
who needs more freedom than her mom is willing to give her.
Sweetheart, don‟t be a drama queen. :: Feck you!
“Sweetheart” is a very common term of affection. A “drama queen” is
a person who acts with great emotion, or too dramatically. Note that Anita
is too scared to say “fuck you” to her mom, but does say “feck you,” which
Mom, pull over. Tell him the truth.
“Pull over” is the phrasal verb you use to describe the act
of slowing down and stopping a car on the side of the road.
They call him “the narc” behind his back.
A slang term for a narcotics officer, who is a much hated secret
police officer who tries to catch students using illegal drugs.
To do something “behind a person‟s back” is to do it when they
cannot hear or see it being done.
Come on, you guys. It‟s no big deal.
“Come on” is the most varied phrasal verb in English, meaning everything
from hurry up to, here, calm down. “It‟s no big deal” is a widely used and
colloquial way of saying that it‟s not important.
th grade. There‟s too much padding in the grades.
thththSo you skipped 5“To skip” 5 grade is to go directly from 4 to 6, which may happen if the
student is considered very smart. In this case, if the grades are “padded,”
they are filled with too much that is silly or unimportant.
You‟ve robbed him of an adolescence. :: Adolescence is a marketing tool!
“To rob” a person is to steal from them. “Adolescence” refers to the
approximate period of time between ages 13 and 16. A “marketing tool” is
any thing, word or concept that helps to sell a product.
I know you were expecting puberty, but you‟re
just going to have to shine it on a little while.
“Puberty” is a medical term for adolescence, or the young teenage years
when kids acquire the ability to reproduce (“To shine it on”
means to wait longer than expected, but this is no longer used).
Who put such a high premium on being typical? Who needs a crowd?
“To put a high premium on” something is to value it very highly,
or consider it very important. In this case, a “crowd” refers to a
group of school friends.
If someone is “unique,” there is no one else just like them.
Highly unusual, usually in a very positive sense.
Your dad knew that you were a predominantly accelerated child.
“Predominantly” is another way of saying primarily, or principally.
If a child is “accelerated,” they are considered very smart in comparison to
children their age (To accelerate is to move faster).
You are rebellious and ungrateful of my love.
If a person is “rebellious,” they are always fighting against something (in
this case, their parents and teachers). If a person is “ungrateful,” they do
not appreciate what they have been given.
This song explains why I am leaving home to become a stewardess.
A female who works on an airplane serving food and drinks.
One day, you‟ll be cool. Look under your bed…it will set you free.
“Cool” is a critical word in this movie, and a very common colloquial
word for excellent, first-rate or superior. Rock stars are considered very
cool by their fans. “To set a person free” is to give them freedom.
1973: William meets Lester Bangs,
the guys from Stillwater…and Penny Lane.
Here‟s a theory for you to disregard completely…true music lives within
you…with the vast scenic bridges and chorus in your brain.
A “theory” is an educated guess. “To disregard” something is to ignore or
reject it. “Vast” means extremely big or huge, and if a view is “scenic,” it
is pretty or pleasing to the eye. A “chorus” is a group of singers, often in a
It‟s a place apart from the vast benign lap of America.
If something is “benign,” it is harmless.
The world‟s greatest rock‟n‟roll critic.
A “rock‟n‟roll critic” is a writer who reviews rock music, but since many
people don‟t take any rock music seriously, some people think this term is
a bit ridiculous.
Jim Morrison?! He‟s a drunken buffoon posing as a poet.
A “buffoon” is a ridiculously uneducated, stupid or moronic person.
“To pose” as a poet is to pretend that you are one, when in fact you have
none of the real talent or ability that is needed (Jim Morrison was the lead
singer of the group The Doors).
Iggy Pop! Put this on! This isn‟t on your playlist, is it?
A “playlist” is the list of songs that a
disc jockey will play on their radio station.
I‟ve been doing some stuff for a local underground paper.
Note that “stuff” is a very general word for things, and this case refers to
pieces of writing. Here, an “underground” paper is a slangy way of
referring to a paper that has very few readers, and not one that is
necessarily hiding from the government!
You‟ll meet them all again…on their long journey to the middle.
This is Lester‟s way of saying that most rock stars (and critics) move to the
middle of the road artistically, in order to try to get as popular as possible.
Your writing is damn good.
A common and colloquial way of saying very.
Rock‟n‟roll? It‟s over. You got here just in time
for the death rattle. Last grasp. Last grope.
Lester‟s way of saying that rock music has been so commercialized by big
business that it‟s now dying. The “death rattle” is the sound that a rattle
snake or other animal makes just before it dies. A “grasp” is a desperate
attempt to reach (as in “a last grasp for air”), and a “grope” is to reach out
blindly, or with no specific goal.
I used to do speed. I‟d stay up all night
writing and writing, like 25 pages of dribble.
“Speed” is an illegal drug that gives people lots of energy, but can make
them a little crazy. “Dribble” is the spit or saliva that comes out of a
person‟s mouth when they‟re sleeping, but it also refers to bad writing.
They‟re gonna be fake friends. They‟re gonna try to corrupt you.
“Fake” is not real, and thus a “fake” friend is a person who is pretending
to be your friend, but who really is just using you.
“To corrupt” a person is to try and lead them away from their own
principles or values, often turning them into criminals.
Fucking nothing about you that is controversial, man.
Note the use of “fucking” as a totally empty filler word. Vulgar, but
common among young people. If something is “controversial,” it causes
much emotion, argument or disagreement. The word “man” is often used
as a filler word to express general emotion. Widely used among teenagers,
but basically meaningless.
There are people who want you to write sanctimonious stories about the genius of rock stars…
A good word to describe something that is too
serious or even religious or righteous in attitude.
….and they‟ll ruin rock‟n‟roll and strangle everything we love about it, right?
To “ruin” something is to kill or destroy it. “To strangle”
something is to choke it, or kill it by cutting off its air.
And then it just becomes an industry of cool.
This is Lester‟s way of saying the rock music is being destroyed by record
companies that are just trying to promote rock stars that look cool to young
people, rather than those producing good music.
You‟re coming along at a very dangerous time for rock„n‟roll.
In this case, to “come along” means to arrive.
I can give you $35. Give me 1,000 words on Black Sabbath. :: An assignment?!
An “assignment” is a specific job, in this case to write an article.
You have to make your reputation on being honest and unmerciful.
A Person‟s reputation is the general opinion that other people have of
them. If a person is “unmerciful,” they refuse to show mercy or kindness.
If you get into a jam, you can call me.
“To get into a jam” is to get into a difficult
situation that is hard to get out of.
An entire generation of Cinderellas, and there is no slipper coming.
“Cinderella” is a character in the famous children‟s tale who wears
magical “slippers,” which is a type of shoe that is easy to put on.
You want to get high?
To “get high” is to experience great or unusual physical, emotional or
intellectual sensations, usually from taking drugs such as marijuana.
As long as I know this is a hobby…I‟ll pick you up at 11:00 sharp.
A “hobby” is an activity that a person enjoys doing in their free time, such
as playing cards or collecting records. If something is supposed to happen
at “11:00 sharp,” this means exactly at 11:00.
I‟m here from Cream magazine to interview Black Sabbath.
A rock magazine edited by Lester Bangs that was popular in the 1970s, but
which never had the success of Rolling Stone magazine.
Go to the top of the ramp with the other girls.
A roadway that connects two levels, or leads on or off a highway.
I‟m not a groupie.
A somewhat negative word for a girl who follows rock stars around, often
hoping to sleep with them while they are on a concert tour.
Groupies sleep with rock starts because they want to be near someone
famous. We‟re here because of the music. We‟re „Band-Aids.‟
Depending on the context, to “sleep with” a person often means to have
sex with them. A “Band Aid” is Penny‟s term for girls like her who follow
rock stars, since she doesn‟t like the word groupie.
Note the play on words---they “aid” rock bands, and a band-aid is a small
bandage that is used to cover a cut or other minor injury.
We don‟t have intercourse with them.
A clinical way of referring to sex, or sexual intercourse.
We inspire the music. We‟re here because of the music.
“To inspire” is to encourage or stimulate great work in other people.
She was the one who said „no more exploiting our bodies and our hearts.‟
“To exploit” a person is to use or take advantage of them.
Right; Just blow jobs, and that‟s it.
A funny line. A “blow job” is a slang term for
the act of performing oral sex on a man.
Who brought Opie?
“Opie” was the name of a very young and innocent character in
“The Andy Griffith Show,” which was a popular TV show in the 1960s.
Sapphire is probably calling William this because he looks so innocent.
This is outrageous. We‟re an hour and half late.
A powerful adjective meaning extremely offensive or bad.
Look, I‟m sorry. But could you please fuck off? rd person to pass An alternative to the more common “fuck you.” Of course, just as vulgar,
on the message (i.e.… “tell him to fuck off…”) but with the advantage that you can tell a 3
You guys producing it yourself, instead of
Glyn Johns, that was the right thing to do.
“To produce” a record is to handle of all the recording
equipment in order to make the best possible song.
Russell, the guitar sound is incendiary…way to go!
“Incendiary” is an educated word for something that causes a fire, or in
this case, that causes great emotion or passion. “Way to go” is a common
and colloquial way of congratulating a person who just accomplished
something very good or difficult.
He‟s with us. Come in this way, Bro.
A short slangy way of saying brother, or more loosely, friend.
Rock „n‟ roll is a lifestyle and a way of thinking,
and it‟s not about money and popularity.
An interesting and politically sensitive word that refers to the way
of living, style or values of an individual or culture (There can be
a hippie lifestyle, gay lifestyle, etc).
It‟s a voice that says “Here I am, and „fuck you‟ if you can‟t understand me.”
A silly rock star‟s typical way of trying to explain rock music.
Rock „n‟ roll can save the world….and the chicks are great.
A very slangy and somewhat silly word for a girl or young woman.
But what it all comes down to is that thing…the indefinable thing when people catch something from your music.
If a situation “all comes down to” something, that something is the most
critical or important part (“The health of a company all comes down to its