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“Pearl Jam Twenty” is written and directed by noted film maker,
Cameron Crowe (1957 – ). It was released on DVD in 2011, the 20th
Anniversary of Pearl Jam’s first album, “Ten.” Cameron Crowe is
ideally suited to take on this project, when you consider his early
background as a Rock journalist (chronicled in his movie, “Almost
Famous”), and his enthusiasm for Classic Rock music in general.
With a running time of just less than two hours, this film is a
shining example of how such a movie should be made.

At the beginning of the film, Crowe indicated that he moved to
Seattle during the mid 1980’s, to check out the growing
Alternative Rock scene. He described a tightly knit Rock
community that created music befitting bands that spent a
lot of time “indoors.” Pearl Jam was largely formed from the
ashes of bands such as Mother Love Bone, and the first 14-odd
minutes of the film focuses on this band and others, and
includes a discussion of the tragic demise of the Mother Love
Bone singer, Andy Wood (1966-1990). Key interviews were
conducted with Mother Love Bone alums, Steve Gossard and
Jeff Ament, who would later join Mike McCready in 1990,
forming Pearl Jam.

Singer Eddie Vedder also joined the band in 1990 and along
with others, he shares the tale of how he became a part of
the group: Vedder was living in San Diego, and after the rest of
the band heard Vedder’s singing on a cassette, they flew him
to Seattle.

The film places Pearl Jam’s rise to success within the general
context of the Alternative/Grunge Rock music scene of the
1990’s and 2000’s. It includes footage of Curt Cobain and his
views on Pearl Jam, which initially weren’t good. He felt that the
band was too much of a sellout to be classified as “true Alternative
Rock.” Later, Cobain came to regard Eddie Vedder as a nice guy,
and the two front men would eventually reconcile. Nirvana’s first
album, “Nevermind,” was released a mere two months after
Pearl Jam’s debut disc, “Ten,” and both albums would become
the top-selling Alternative albums from the Seattle Rock scene.

Each member of Pearl Jam is portrayed as a complete person,
not just a “Rock star,” giving a depth to this film which is often
lacking in more hagiographic portrayals. Early concert footage
shot before the formation of Pearl Jam, as well as later footage
from throughout their career, is interspersed with interviews
with the band members and those on the sidelines. Most
important is that this band’s integrity and unwillingness to
compromise their artistic vision and ideals are portrayed, in no
uncertain terms. There was a discussion of the lawsuit against
Ticketmaster, based upon what the band felt were exorbitant
ticket prices.  Other dark moments for this band, such as the
deaths of audience members at a concert held in Roskilde,
Denmark, are also covered.

By the end of this film, I felt as though I knew Pearl Jam and
what they stood for on an intimate level, including their beliefs
concerning many social and political issues. With this film,
I believe that Cameron Crowe has created one of the best
“Rock docs” ever.

There are also eight sequences of bonus features that vary
from one and one-half minutes to nine minutes each, adding
another 35 to 40 minutes to the total running time of this DVD.
These are definitely worth watching, and provide more insight
regarding the creative process and personal lives of the
members of Pearl Jam. I give this movie an “A.”

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