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Celebrating Frances McDormand’s Funniest Lines in ‘Almost Famous’ for the Film’s Anniversary

Frances McDormand stole the highlight as Elaine Miller in ‘Almost Famous.’ Here are her funniest and most memorable quotes.

On September 13, 2000, Almost Famous premiered in theaters with Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand portraying the supporting character Elaine Miller. The film follows her son, an aspiring journalist who, at a mere 15 years of age, is given the prospect to accompany an up-and-coming rock band on their concert tour for Rolling Stone — at a ridiculously discounted wage on account of his utter lack of skilled experience. 

Dormand plays the overprotective maternal figure who — though smart and well-educated — is the epitome of a helicopter parent who won’t rest until her baby boy is home secure together with his head in her lap. She also boasts a delusional, academic-inclined perspective concerning adolescence — one which eschews ideas surrounding decades-old social structures in favor of being “unique” and “superior.” Anxious, aggravatingly all-knowing, and shockingly “uncool,” Elaine boasts among the funniest lines in the trendy classic. 

“Rock stars have kidnapped my son!” 

This could also be Miller’s most oft-quoted line from Almost Famous, which she blurts out mid-college lecture. While teaching her students about intuition — the so-called “sixth” sense” of humankind — she notes that she will’t concentrate. She grabs the rostrum with each hands and with a stern, regular voice and deadpan expression, she informs her students that “rock stars have kidnapped [her] son.” Her delivery — lacking any shred of facetiousness — is what makes this line all of the more hysterical. Her son is willingly on this concert tour, yet she fully believes, no doubt, that her boy has been taken from her by dangerous rock & rollers who will rob him of his beautiful innocence. 

“You are rebellious and ungrateful of my love.” 

Elaine is within the automotive along with her two children: William and Anita. She begins to praise her academically advanced and unique child who shouldn’t compare himself to the standard preteens that lurk amongst him within the hallways. She notes that his father saw his great potential. This leads Anita to ask “What about me?” Elaine looks at her daughter with a countenance that conveys each love and disappointment and utters this classic line. She doesn’t hold back. Brutal honesty is clearly a part of her parenting philosophy, which is so ingrained in her educational proclivity that she often lacks that “gentle touch.” She’s got no tact. It’s the brutality mixed with the tender expression that seals the deal. It’s almost as if she’s firing Anita from her job as her daughter…until further notice.

“Adolescence is a marketing tool.” 

When Anita tells her mother that — by placing her son in first grade a 12 months early and allowing him to skip fifth grade — she is robbing her child of an adolescence, Elaine responds with this zinger. It’s not exactly unfaithful, because the Hollywoodification of adolescence has actually created this rose-hued representation of the hormone-fueled, acne-centric, clique-heavy period. Coming-of-age is a descriptor that sells tickets on the box office. Adolescence is a term that helps sell youth-targeted magazines on the shelf. That being said, it’s a bit heavy-handed and hyperbolic. She’s not fully unsuitable; her viewpoint is once more, stifled by her tendency to think about the pinnacle and omit the center. However, that is what makes Elaine ceaselessly funny. 

She is so cerebral, yet also such a worry wart that she intellectualizes her feelings and seeks to regulate every thing round her. It is the juxtaposition between her intelligence and her uptight anxious parenting style that lends strategy to such unexpected rebukes. 

“Don’t take drugs.” 

What could possibly be more mortifying than your mother yelling “Don’t take drugs” out of the automotive window when she drops you off at a rock concert? Teenagers and 20-somethings walking into the concert with beers of their hands mimic her with an exaggerated degree of sarcasm. She leaves her already dweebish son to seem much more dweeby to the opposite patrons. She’s smart enough to know this may embarrass him but too anxious to permit her intrusive thoughts to go unproclaimed. She looks at her son apologetically after the actual fact, but it surely’s too late: the damage has already been done. Oh Elaine, could you be more uncool? This is an instance of pure cringe comedy. 

“This is just not some apron-wearing mother you’re speaking with – I do know all about your Valhalla of decadence and I shouldn’t have let him go. He’s not ready in your world of compromised values and diminished brain cells that you simply throw away like confetti. Am I chatting with you clearly?” 

Really, Elaine, “Valhalla of decadence?” We just can’t with you. This is the threat Elaine issues to rock and roll musician Russell after he futilely tries to charm her into subservience. It is the word selection that basically wins us over here. It’s a bit too perfect —  a bit beyond the on a regular basis rebuttal — but we let it slide given her college professor characterization. “Throwing away brain cells like confetti” creates such a robust mental image that lingers long after the sentence reaches its conclusion. 

Her tempo quickens as she speaks. The words spill out of her mouth with fervor as her anxiety intensifies and her righteousness blooms. She goes from seemingly imagining disaster striking her son to doing all in her power to make sure such disaster never involves fruition. The delivery is a somewhat maniacal consequence of her rampant imagination — one which equates rock and roll musicians to Satan’s spawn. The moment is so relatable to any parental figure with an impressionable child, as each word slips from her mouth as if hours behind the words to come back. You need to laugh, for it’s coming from a spot of such real emotion, despite all of the logical fallacies at the middle. 

“Well, what’s unsuitable with THAT?” 

This one requires somewhat little bit of context. Anita tells her mother that the youngsters in school call William “a narc,” occurring to elucidate that it’s short for “narcotics officer,” in an insult akin to “tattletale.” 

Elaine, in probably the most Elaine-est of replies, innocently asks, “What’s unsuitable with that?” It’s a very good job could be her follow-up sentence had she uttered one. She is blissfully unbothered by the rampant teasing and bullying such a term insinuates, and easily pleasantly content with the good-boy fame it denotes. Oh, Elaine, we all know you would like what’s best in your son, but you’ll be able to’t want it at such a high expense.

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