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Pearl Jam Twenty – Movie Review

Written by Tim Harvey on September 22, 2011

Even though the band Pearl Jam are huge and legendary for their help pioneering the iconic Seattle grunge scene – which was also made famous by the heaven sent Nirvana, they still remain one of the world’s most underrated rock acts. So, in steps fan and former Rolling Stone editor Cameron Crowe with a camera as he directs and documents the band’s two-decade long career over two hours to show the world the justice they deserve. Crowe looks to add to his impressive film credits (that include the Oscar worthy ‘Jerry Maguire’ and the Kate Hudson career maker ‘Almost Famous’) with ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’ that deserves its time on the big screen before it hits the DVD racks.

From the beginnings of the awe-inspiring and stunning aerial view of Seattle’s skyline, you instantly become immersed in the culture of the city that bore this band. The digital views are so detailed it almost feels like you’re there. Then as some familiar, favourite guitar kicks in, the fans are right there, immersed in this epic trip down memory lane. To say this band have been through a lot is another statement that underestimates them, but Crowe really makes the most of what they’re worth. His direction isn’t just slick (from stunning scenery and the perfect pick of songs, soundbites and other related or loosely related clips (everything from Elvis and Bob Dylan to Adam Sandler and ‘Celebrity Deathmatch’ are used here)) it’s also deep, determined and tastefully insightful.

Everything from the tragedy of Mother Love Bone to Kurt Cobain and the Roskilde Festival are handled with tact and humble honesty, while the alliance with Canadian legend Neil Young and the brilliant boycott of Ticketmaster are addressed and celebrated with assessment and class. All these moments are punctuated by some great performances like the majestic MTV Unplugged show and the inspiring Italian acoustic flair of In Fair Verona. The notoriously publicity shy band also give Crowe and us a big look into their private lives, especially and surprisingly the favourite frontman Eddie Vedder, who takes us round his home.

You’ll really learn a lot from this documentary film, like just how incredibly underrated a guitarist Mike Mcready is and just how much this selfless band have done for others in all their generosity and camaraderie. With accounts from the band, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and this film’s directors own personal memories and accounts, this really is a deeper, expert eye’s look into a genre of music and a nostalgic time of everybody’s lives. This film recently premiered at the traditional (second only to Cannes) Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews from everyone from top film magazines to ‘Keerang’. It was released in conjunction with a book, live album and live show at the Air Canada Centre in the T-Dot, but as incredible as all these things are (especially the epic live show these guys put on) it comes second to the story of this band. Twenty years on, Mookie Blaylock and Pearl are made proud.

Watch: Pearl Jam – Twenty Trailer

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