directed by Cameron Crowe
Perhaps it’s because brilliant director Cameron Crowe was there since the beginning, taking in the Seattle music scene with uncanny foresight. Perhaps it’s because Crowe is a music fanatic, a true audiophile enamored with music the way we, good reader, are enamored with film. Perhaps it’s because Pearl Jam just kicks ass. All are true, and the documentary commemorating one of the finest bands of my generation on their 20th anniversary is a no frills celebration of a group of men who compromise nothing in order to realize their art. Crowe merely catalogs the group’s trajectory, from Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament’s first group, Mother Love Bone, and its disintegration following the tragic death of lead man Andrew Wood, to Pearl Jam’s present place among the absolute greats. In between, a young Eddie Vedder grows from a shy West Coaster into the voice of a generation as he blends his style with that of Gossard and Ament. Cameron Crowe is a strong director, and the true mark of a strong director is when he can fade into the background and let his subject matter shine. Nothing flashy, nothing showy, just a wonderfully edited love letter to a band all of us can’t help but know. I particularly loved the footage of Vedder and former Soundgarden (who kicks ass, too!) frontman Chris Cornell romping and wrestling onstage (during the Temple of the Dog days) in a kind of Whitmanesque celebration of reckless, life lusty youth. PJ20 is a solid, classically awesome doc that leaves you feeling awesome at the end of it. I watched this doc in the middle of the night foolishly thinking I could simply go to sleep afterward. Not the case, my friend. The afterglow kept me up into the not so wee hours of the morning, and I savored every minute of it.