ALMOST ALMOST FAMOUS is a documentary that explores the lives of three of the world’s top tribute artists, the cost of borrowed fame and the risk of getting ‘lost in the act’. The film title is derived from a similar road trip fictitious film, Cameron Crowe’s famous autobiographical ALMOST FAMOUS about a young Rolling Stone journalist following a band on their road tour. The journalist lost his virginity, fell in love and lived with his heroes. Despite the similar title, ALMOST ALMOST FAMOUS is about the touring artists.
The film feels as if it is set in an alternate universe, where Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison never die. Fifty years after trailblazers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jackie Wilson defined music as is known today, three world-class tribute artists (or impersonators) carry on their legacy. The film follows the artists as the mature and grow older and discover that once they reach a certain age, they are too old to impersonate their tribute artists. The film looks at what happens to them when borrowed fame begins to lose its charm.
The first person introduced is the tour manager Marty Kramer. Marty is an impatient man and reasonably so. He has to ensure schedules are kept and has to babysit the often spoilt rotten performers. He is 67 years old and has been in the business for over 50 years. Director Lank introduces him before ditches him for a good reason. He is a wet blanket and he does not want his film dragged down with negativity.
The three stories are of Texas rockabilly musician Lance Lipinsky as Jerry Lee Lewis, Las Vegas-based R & B singer Bobby Brooks as Jackie Wilson and the “Elvis from Orlando”, Ted Torres on their “Class of ’59” cross country road tour. From the beer joints of Texas to the Karaoke bars of Honolulu, the film explores how three incredibly talented singers wound up paying the bills as tribute artists.
Ted Torres is happy to play the young Elvis forever but he is getting older. The film reveals the amount of time that needs be spent on Elvis make-up. The number of Elvis impersonators is staggering.
Bobby Brooks does Jackie Wilson. Unknown to him after visiting Jackie’s family and getting his DNA tested, he discovers he is Jackie’s real son. His performances are so like his father’s.
Of the three, Lance Lipinsky is the most charismatic performer, his solo performance used by Lank to bookend his film. He is also the most problematic to the manager, Kramer who claims that Lance has no friends. Not true as he has a dedicated girlfriend and ambition to hit it big with his own music and that his own band, The Lovers, will make it big one day.
The common element of the three stories is the desire to perform and entertain while worried that their job will not last forever. There is no real insight to the lessons in life on display here, just the use of survival common sense. The most exciting segments of the doc are expectedly, the lively performances.