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Review: Pearl Jam Twenty

Pearl Jam Twenty
09.21.2011
100%
9 10

PLOT: Pearl Jam Twenty is writer/director Cameron Crowe’s look back at the past twenty years of Pearl Jam. With live footage, current and archived interviews, he attempts to find out what held this band together for so many years. Will there be another twenty years of Pearl Jam? It seems that it would be a safe bet.

REVIEW: How do you write a review and be fair and impartial when the subject is something close to your heart? Do you step back and look at it with some sort of distance and try and measure it thusly? In most cases you can only be honest without letting judgment – good or bad – cloud your thoughts. So as a massive fan of the band Pearl Jam, how can I approach PEARL JAM TWENTY without my memories of one of my favorite bands painting anything but a glorious picture?

Let’s start here.

Cameron Crowe took footage of the band from the last two decades and created a very affectionate tribute. It is most assuredly clear that Crowe is a fan and he is able to give proper insight into the longevity of the four main players and whichever drummer they have at the time. He pinpoints certain aspects of their career and looks back upon them with thoughtfully selected interviews. The band – who have continued to make music their own way – are presented to the audience music first with less attention to private and somber times. PJ20 doesn’t always hide from the negative moments of their long-lasting career, yet it never wallows in the dirt and mud. With that in mind, this is certainly an inspired near two hours that Crowe has offered music fans. It may not be the end all be all if you are not familiar with Pearl Jam, hell it might even be a tad too long for those not grooving to "Not For You." Yet it is certainly a well made and entertaining music documentary that might inspire a new CD purchase for the uninitiated.

And then there are the fans of which I am one. I love their music and I respect how they make it and attempt to bring it to those still listening. Crowe brings much of his appreciation of Pearl Jam’s music and especially their live performances to the forefront. By collecting this rare footage, he is able to piece together an evocative look at this ever growing band. From the early years of a shy and reclusive Eddie Vedder to the scaffolding climbing, stage diving rock and roll star, Crowe is able to show this talented musician become what he is today. It is an absolute thrill to see this iconic figure brought down to earth. However, this is not the Eddie Vedder show, lest we forget that this is a band made up of five separate – and equally talented – musicians. Audiences are also given tremendous insight into Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. There is also a look back at the drummers who have been a part of the music.

It is hard not to immerse yourself in PJ20 and remember each moment along with Crowe. The focus on the passing of Mother Love Bone front man Andrew Wood and of course, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana is utterly heartbreaking. The added commentary from Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell is a terrific bonus, especially when revisiting Temple of the Dog’s fantastic self-titled record from 1991 (a tribute to Wood). The moments that really shine – aside from the live performances – are where the members are taken a little bit off guard. However dramatic or even humorous, there is a real genuine sense of history here that will have fans of the band lost in their own misty-eyed memories of where they were at the time.

This lovingly crafted feature walks a fine line between impossible praise and respect. It is also very evident that as much as the band members shy away from interviews and press, they are truly grateful to the people buying their albums and going to see their shows. With all the footage, there is really nothing that takes place in the studio while they were recording, however fans can watch “Single Video Theory” for that. The story here is simple, how do these very different men manage to stay together and continue making music? Is it the respect they feel for each other? Is it the fame they found along the way? Or is it simply that they have been together too long to give it up? The answer Crowe offers is hopeful and rewarding. I can’t wait to see what Pearl Jam is up to in ten or twenty years from today!

Pearl Jam Twenty is a satisfying look back at twenty years of great music and the moments that inspired it. For the biggest fans, it may be the single best movie going experience you will have this year. No matter how many times you’ve heard “Alive,” there is nothing like seeing it presented the way it is here. As I write this, the soundtrack is playing and reminding me how much their music has influenced me. It would be impossible to describe to you every single sound and image that sent chills or brought a tear to my eye. Yes, Cameron Crowe is as much of a fan as anybody and that is evidently clear. With that in mind, I would certainly reward PJ20 a coveted ten out of ten.

For those coming in with only a slight knowledge of the band, yet somebody with an appreciation for music documentaries, there is enough here to rejoice. Eddie, Jeff, Stone, Mike and the other musicians interviewed offer a very real and frank look at the music and everything surrounding it. While the unconverted may not be swept away quite as much, most will gladly ride the wave and take in what surrounds them. The music is the key. It would have been nice to see more kinship during the more current interviews with the band. Maybe a little reminiscing might have added a touch of charm. Yet it is still a moving love letter to a band twenty years strong. As somebody who loves music and who may not necessarily be familiar with PJ, an eight out of ten would be fair. Overall, Pearl Jam Twenty will fall nicely in-between an 8 and a 10 for somebody who is currently listening to a personal favorite tune with “State of Love and Trust.”

Pearl Jam Twenty will be in select markets on Sept. 23. Available on Movies on Demand Sept. 24 and coming to DVD Oct. 24.

Extra Tidbit: The drummers for Pearl Jam include Dave Krusen (1990-1991), Dave Abbruzzese (1991-1994), Jack Irons (1994-1998), Matt Chamberlain (1991) and Matt Cameron (1998 - Present). The band also includes Boom Gaspar (2002-Present) on keyboard. Would have been nice to hear more from some of these fine gentlemen.
Source: JoBlo.com

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10:45PM on 09/25/2011

Love the Jam because

of the Cameron. Best drummer in the two best ever Seattle bands. However, my passion for the Garden far outweighs PJ. Yet I am looking forward to seeing this and the justice Crowe will bring when the "grunge" scene took over the world.
of the Cameron. Best drummer in the two best ever Seattle bands. However, my passion for the Garden far outweighs PJ. Yet I am looking forward to seeing this and the justice Crowe will bring when the "grunge" scene took over the world.
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10:23PM on 09/24/2011
Love Pearl Jam. Can't wait to catch this movie.
Love Pearl Jam. Can't wait to catch this movie.
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+3
5:27PM on 09/21/2011
It was awesome, it actually made me leave the cinema liking pearl jam even more, which I didn't think was possible. The bit where Stone forgot about the grammy in is basement was brilliant.
It was awesome, it actually made me leave the cinema liking pearl jam even more, which I didn't think was possible. The bit where Stone forgot about the grammy in is basement was brilliant.
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5:17PM on 09/21/2011
It was a really special doco, loved it.
It was a really special doco, loved it.
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2:34PM on 09/21/2011

Good!

I haven't seen this yet, but if it's even in the same vein as The Last Waltz, I'll be a very happy man.
I haven't seen this yet, but if it's even in the same vein as The Last Waltz, I'll be a very happy man.
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+2
11:56AM on 09/21/2011
Nice that you had the two different outlooks. Saw it last night and thought it was awesome! But yes, I am a die hard PJ fan. Already ordered the deluxe blu-ray. One little thing though. Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) has been the drummer since '98, after Chamberlain. The amazing Boom Gasper is on keyboards.
Nice that you had the two different outlooks. Saw it last night and thought it was awesome! But yes, I am a die hard PJ fan. Already ordered the deluxe blu-ray. One little thing though. Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) has been the drummer since '98, after Chamberlain. The amazing Boom Gasper is on keyboards.
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