Pearl Jam Twenty (2011)
Critic Consensus: Cameron Crowe's fawning documentary is a true boon for Pearl Jam fans, but the band's insistent resistance to fame comes off hollow.
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Critic Reviews for Pearl Jam Twenty
Very few music documentaries in the history of the form have more successfully conveyed the inner workings and outer artistic expression of a band than Cameron Crowe's brilliant Pearl Jam Twenty.
Crowe has assembled some top-drawer ephemera -- old show posters, home movies, and candid backstage footage -- but he overestimates his audience's patience for present-day talking-head interviews.
With its intimacy and (this can't be emphasized enough) fantastic sound, Pearl Jam Twenty is like two hours spent rediscovering the band through excellent headphones.
If only it was about something other than rockers almost irked they got famous.
In a better film, Crowe would have played journalist instead of fan boy.
Audience Reviews for Pearl Jam Twenty
Pearl Jam cemented themselves as being one of the best, most influential, and tightest bands over the past two decades plus, and this documentary, going by their 20th anniversary (of the release of Ten, not their formation), is a loving tribute/celebration of them, their music, and the factors that brought them together, and keep them going. Cameron Crowe is a great choice for this material, having a knack at music related films, and being relatively close to the band to begin with. That, and thanks to his movie Singles, he has a vast love and knowledge of the scene that they got the most famous during. The film, in the first half at least, is well balanced and structured, and gives a lot of insight into how the band formed, as well as hitting highlights of their career chronologically. A fair amount of time is also spent on the Mother Love Bone era, and that's where some of the more moving parts of the film are, right up front. The second half is fine, but really runs out of steam, and is oddly structred for some wieird reason. Some of the biographical stuff about the guys, and what lead them to Seattle happens in the first half, while the rest comes later, and seems really rushed and shoehorned. That, and in general a few thigns get glossed over, with Crowe making the assumption that the audience will already be familiar with things, and have the prior knowledge of what he skims over. Unlike VH1's Behind The Music, this doesn't get overly sappy, sensational, or melodramatic. These guys actually look at things very matter of factly, as opposed to being overly nostalgic for the past, and bitter that those days have gone by. I really enjoyed hearing their thoughts on some of the most well known high and low moments though, and how the film isn't afraid to get into the uncomfortable parts of the band's history at times. This is a pretty decent film. I'm biased because I love the band and their music, but for a casual viewer, this is a decent primer, though they might not be able to appreciate some of this as much. Still though, Crowe did a good job, and I can't really see someone else doing a much better job.
From a confirmed PJ fanboy comes a film that's surprisingly watchable to the casual Pearl Jam appreciater (i.e., me). Most surprising, perhaps, were the varying impulses to quit that the band has felt over the years, from the initial burnout after their smash hits through their battle with Ticketmaster and the deeply affecting tragedy at Roskilde, where nine fans were killed as the crowd rushed the stage. The insights into the personalities - particularly vocalist/lyricist Eddie Vedder and the unassuming, dedicated-to-the-art-of-it bassist Jeff Ament - are coupled with lots of music, live video and peer commentary to give you a picture of how far the band's travelled these last 20 years. Enjoyable doc.
Loved the footage and the interviews. However, it glossed over some details that I think Crowe assumed that the viewer should have already known. Also, it was oddly organized. The first half of the film consisted of your standard rock doc fare, while the second half seemed to jump all over the place. Without the structure, it just felt like Pearl Jam trivia time. Which don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed. I only wish that the second act was as well constructed as the first.
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