Tag Archives: Eddie Vedder

Pearl Jam Twenty

22 Oct

Title: Pearl Jam Twenty
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Cameron Crowe
Writer: Cameron Crowe
Starring: 
Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Matt Cameron
MPAA Rating: 
Not rated
Runtime: 
120 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
8.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 
68%

I’m a big big fan of Cameron Crowe, the guy can do no wrong to me, Almost Famous is one of my ten or twenty favorite films of all-time probably and it’s one of the films that made me love films as much as I do today. And one of the biggest reasons why I love Cameron Crowe so much, and especially why I love Almost Famous, is because he’s probably the best director as far as putting great music into great scenes of his movies. I mean just think about it, that scene in Almost Famous in which the whole bus starts singing along to Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’ may just be the best use of a song in movie history in my opinion, and then there’s obviously John Cusack raising the boombox that’s playing Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’ in Say Anything. Those are great scenes that were made impeccable by the songs that were in them, all of them chosen carefully by Mr. Crowe, who of course started out working at Rolling Stone, an experience which obviously shaped the semi-autobiographical Almost Famous and that certainly honed his keen ear for music.

Now, Mr. Crowe hadn’t put out a new film in six years, since 2005’s Elizabethtown which certainly was his most uninspired film to date and that seemed to have put him into some sort of artistic recovery mode, but he’s certainly using 2011 to bounce back in a big way. The big comeback test for him will come on December 23rd, when We Bought a Zoo, his new film that stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Elle Fanning hits the theaters, but in the meanwhile he’s also taken time to direct two music documentaries. One is The Union, which I still haven’t had the pleasure to see and which tracks down the making of Elton John and Leon Russell’s collaborative album of the same name. And the other is Pearl Jam Twenty, which I just saw, a film that chronicles the legendary band that was front-and-center in the creation of the grunge scene in Seattle, the years leading up to their formation, the stress that came when they achieved superstardom, and how they retreated from that spotlight, finding their inner peace before it all consumed them.

I love Pearl Jam, I’ve been a fan of the band for years now and I’m actually finally going to see them live when they come to my hometown for the first time next month, so I was bound to love this documentary quite a bit. And the reason why I was bound to love this one is that Mr. Crowe himself is clearly a huge Pearl Jam fan himself, and it’s incredibly clear here just how much he adores this band, and it’s that love that brings a portrait of the band that fans will no doubt eat up, as Mr. Crowe serves up footage that includes stuff that really few people had ever seen before and that helps him tell a story that feels both like an intimate look at one of rock’s greatest and most private institutions of the last two decades, as well as a much more universal story of just how great music can be and how someone can be true to themselves and not compromise their talent. And that’s what I loved so much about Pearl Jam Twenty, that fact that it offered both a great look about the inner workings as well as an outer look about their sheer musical talent.

But then I got thinking that maybe this documentary wouldn’t feel as awesome to people that weren’t such fans of the band, and in theory any good music documentary really should make people who don’t particularly care for the band feel like they do. And I think Pearl Jam Twenty at the end does feel like the sort of movie that acts that way and makes people care, but maybe it starts off as a bit too exclusionary towards the non-fanatics, but then again I’m biased because I am a fan and I just loved it from start to finish. And, again, Cameron Crowe is a superfan himself, so he probably didn’t care that much if it felt exclusionary at times, this is, after all, a guy that knew these guys before Pearl Jam even existed, and he knows really well how to explore those early days as well as the huge stardom era and finally settle in the present, in which the band has had no problem dialing down their level of fame because it means an easier lifestyle for them. And you really get it that Mr. Crowe knows exactly how to navigate this world extremely well, and you get why he would want to make a documentary about guys he knew over twenty years ago, way before they went on to sell over 60 million records and sell out stadiums worldwide.

But even though for me it’s not as much of a problem that it all feels so familiar, I do get that people that aren’t as into the band as me will be thrown off, because Mr. Crowe rushes through the introductions and is very quick to throw us deep into the middle of this band, assuming we know all of the players involved as well as he so obviously does, and that really is what keeps Pearl Jam Twenty from becoming that masterpiece rock documentary we all know Cameron Crowe is so capable of producing. But this is still tremendous, and some of the things in which Mr. Crowe focusses, like the fight with Ticketmaster and the death of some of its fans at a festival in Denmark, those turning points in their career really do give us a really good insight about why the band is the way it is today, why they’re not as big about the fame and about the touring and selling as a band with their legacy could be.

This is a film for diehard Pearl Jam fans, that’s really all I can say about it, it never once tries to be super objective or anything, clearly being fueled by the love Mr. Crowe has for the band. But even those non-believers who get to watch it will have to appreciate just how awesome these guys are, how much respect they have for each other and for their art, and that personal integrity and professional responsibility is what has made Peal Jam as big a band as they want themselves to be, not as some bigger entity needs them to be. And it’s also what makes Pearl Jam Twenty a truly outstanding documentary made by a brilliant director who I’m really glad is producing new stuff again, and it’s only made me wish their show next month comes sooner so I can experience it all live.

Grade: A-

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