Rick Diamond / Tom Hauck, Getty Images If you know your Pearl Jam history, you're…
- Posted on Sep 12th 2011 5:00PM by Jonathan Dekel
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette
The real intrigue of the film comes in the spectre of Andrew Wood, the enigmatic lead singer of Pearl Jam precursor Mother Love Bone, who died of an overdose in 1990. Wood casts a long shadow over Pearl Jam, especially former MLB members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament who proved to be the backbone of the band that would become Pearl Jam.
Crowe spends little time in the details of the band's rise to fame -- which is fair considering he had 20 years to cover and a mere two hours to do it in -- and instead looks to milestones like Pearl Jam's legendary 'MTV Unplugged' session when the perils of fame are becoming too much to bare.
Though the infamous Pearl Jam/Nirvana feud is covered in the film (including the contentious Time magazine incident where Vedder appeared on the cover despite making a pact with Kurt Cobain that neither band would do the feature and or even give an interview), Crowe still manages to gloss over some other imperfections -- guitarist Mike McCready's drug addiction, for example -- which almost seems like the 'Almost Famous' director is pulling punches for the sake of friendship.
The final 10 years of the Pearl Jam story -- essentially the years following the band's performance at the 2000 Roskilde Festival which resulted in several deaths -- is where the film starts dragging and, wisely, Crowe pads the plot line with epic live performances.
The documentary certainly captures some transcending moments, though, climaxing in the group's stunning tribute to Mother Love Bone on their 10th anniversary show. By essentially bookending 'Pearl Jam Twenty' by addressing the ever-present elephant in the room, namely the MLB backstory, Crowe respectfully fulfills his duty as both a consummate storyteller and an obsessive musical archivist.
As he explained during a post-premiere press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival, "['Pearl Jam Twenty' is] beyond just a rock story, in fact, it takes the usual rock story and turns it on its head. The usual rock story is: 'incredible promise, brilliance maybe, but tragedy cuts it short, and aren't we sad we've lost this wonderful opportunity.' Pearl Jam is exactly the opposite, it's a tragedy that was surmounted, and these guys found joy through survival. In some ways, it was a hard story to tell because it's a happy ending and it's not even an ending."
'Pearl Jam Twenty' will be shown in theaters on Sept. 20 before airing on PBS on Oct. 21 as part of the inaugural PBS Arts Fall Festival.
PEARL JAM TWENTY trailer HD