Cameron Crowe’s ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’ Documentary [REVIEW]
Director and Pearl Jam super-fan Cameron Crowe packs as much history as he can in to a two-hour documentary that will teach even the most die-hard PJ fan new things about the band.
Cameron Crowe was working as a music journalist in Seattle during the late 80′s and had a front row seat for the burgeoning “grunge” music scene. His friendships with the members of Pearl Jam were formed very early on, even before the band itself existed. He has worked with them a number of times including his 1992 film ‘Singles’ and the Pearl Jam DVD ‘Single Video Theory’. I don’t think any other filmmaker could’ve made this happen — Crowe manages to take a brutally honest look at a band that would’ve otherwise been reluctant to allow.
The takes an incredibly in-depth look at the earliest days of the band, dating all the way back to the bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard’s pre-Pearl Jam band — Mother Love Bone. The band’s beginnings are the main focal point of the rock-doc, but that is where some of the most interesting facets of their story is told.
With all the attention focused on their inception, the documentary ends up feeling unbalanced. To Cameron Crowe’s credit — it has to be almost impossible to fit the entire scope of a band’s 20 year career into a two-hour film. He does spend more than half of the film on the rest of their career, but the albums ‘Yield’, ‘Riot Act’, ‘Pearl Jam’, and ‘Backspacer’ are not mentioned whatsoever. The album ‘No Code’ is only mentioned once, and even that was done in passing.
Make no mistake, this is an incredible documentary. The only problem is that it would have to be multi-part series to really go in-depth with their entire career. However, the film was edited substantially for it’s theatrical / on-demand release — the special edition DVD and Blu-ray will have over 4 hours of extra footage including an 80-minute doc on Pearl Jam fans.
Here is a list of just a few stand-out moments from ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’:
- Chris Cornell discussing his time as (late Mother Love Bone singer) Andy Wood’s roommate.
- Excellent quality footage of Pearl Jam’s second show, which was just days after their formation.
- A performance for MTV in conjunction with the film ‘Singles’ where the whole band was sloppy drunk (especially Eddie).
- Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard writing ‘Daughter’ on a tour bus (this version called ‘Brother’ has very different lyrics).
- Guitarist Mike McCready talking about blacking out during their ‘Saturday Night Live’ performance of ‘Daughter’.
- The band explaining how Kurt Cobain changed the way they did things.
- A tour of Stone Gossard’s house where you discover he’s not very good at doing dishes.
Final Verdict: ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’ is a great documentary. Skimming through the band’s latter years is the only thing keeping it from perfection.