Pearl Jam Twenty (DVD)

Pearl Jam

Monkeywrench Inc., 2011

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


The story of Pearl Jam, one of rock music’s most iconic acts, is one that doesn’t need retelling, since there is so little – if anything – that needs to be told. But a commemorative piece honoring the band’s legacy seems almost inevitable, considering their influence on the musical and the cultural landscapes.

Pearl Jam Twenty is a documentary chronicling the history, successes, trials, and tribulations of Pearl Jam. But it makes the entire experience intimate, by telling stories that come straight from the band members. It is a reflection of the band’s past two decades as seen from the eyes of the present. The movie doesn’t really have the monotonous narrative of a documentary. Rather, the clever juxtaposition of interviews of the band members, mixed with live performances by the band, tell the tale of this group as a collective experience than a one-dimensional monolithic storyline.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Cameron Crowe’s love of music and especially of the Seattle grunge scene is unmistakable in the way he paints the picture of the band’s legacy. The shots of Seattle, especially at the beginning of the movie introducing the grunge music scene and clips of early Pearl Jam and its associated acts like Mother Love Bone in dingy Seattle clubs is more like a salute to the city itself for spawning a new genre that would forever change the landscape of rock music.

The movie is a trove of clippings from home movie tapes by members of the band, which are edited brilliantly to flow with the interviews, but are still sloppy enough to have the element of spontaneity; afterall, this is not some sort of serious documentary, it is a rocumentary. Crowe’s interludes have the perfect timing: for example the footage of Eddie Vedder’s interview on MTV’s Headbangers Ball discussing the video for “Alive” and talking about how Pearl Jam will never make a conceptual video, transitions into the killer opening guitar hook of “Jeremy,” and the story moves on to the making of the intense and contemplative video of this song.

All said and done, Pearl Jam Twenty is about the music more than anything else. In addition to clippings of live shows, there are actual almost full-length live performances by the band at various venues throughout the world that make their way appropriately at various junctures of the narration. The fact that this is a documentary of a rock band is never lost on Crowe, as he inserts great music – mostly by Pearl Jam – almost throughout the entire duration of the film. Pearl Jam Twenty is Pearl Jam’s longest and most entertaining music video.

Rating: A

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© 2011 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Monkeywrench Inc., and is used for informational purposes only.