Pearl Jam Twenty

Critics Consensus

Cameron Crowe's fawning documentary is a true boon for Pearl Jam fans, but the band's insistent resistance to fame comes off hollow.



Total Count: 28


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,493
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Movie Info

Pearl Jam Twenty chronicles the years leading up to the band's formation, the chaos that ensued soon-after their rise to megastardom, their step back from center stage, and the creation of a trusted circle that would surround them-giving way to a work culture that would sustain them. Told in big themes and bold colors with blistering sound, the film is carved from over 1,200 hours of rarely-seen and never-before seen footage spanning the band's career. Pearl Jam Twenty is the definitive portrait of Pearl Jam: part concert film, part intimate insider-hang, part testimonial to the power of music and uncompromising artists. -- (C) Official Site


Jeff Ament
as Jeff Ament
Matt Cameron
as Matt Cameron
Chris Cornell
as Chris Cornell
Eddie Vedder
as Eddie Vedder
Mike McCready
as Mike McCready
Stone Gossard
as Stone Gossard
Kurt Cobain
as Kurt Cobain
Neil Young
as Neil Young
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News & Interviews for Pearl Jam Twenty

Critic Reviews for Pearl Jam Twenty

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (9)

  • Crowe has assembled some top-drawer ephemera -- old show posters, home movies, and candid backstage footage -- but he overestimates his audience's patience for present-day talking-head interviews.

    Sep 23, 2011 | Full Review…

    Dana Stevens

    Top Critic
  • With its intimacy and (this can't be emphasized enough) fantastic sound, Pearl Jam Twenty is like two hours spent rediscovering the band through excellent headphones.

    Sep 23, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • If only it was about something other than rockers almost irked they got famous.

    Sep 23, 2011 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • In a better film, Crowe would have played journalist instead of fan boy.

    Sep 23, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • By the time "Pearl Jam Twenty" is over we can't help but be impressed by the kind of personal and professional integrity that has kept the band honest and allowed them to endure and prosper.

    Sep 22, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • While the movie may not have the insight of D. A. Pennebaker's "Don't Look Back" or even Phil Joanou's U2 travelogue, "Rattle and Hum," Pearl Jam devotees will not go home musically unnourished.

    Sep 22, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Pearl Jam Twenty

  • Jun 28, 2012
    From a confirmed PJ fanboy comes a film that's surprisingly watchable to the casual Pearl Jam appreciater (i.e., me). Most surprising, perhaps, were the varying impulses to quit that the band has felt over the years, from the initial burnout after their smash hits through their battle with Ticketmaster and the deeply affecting tragedy at Roskilde, where nine fans were killed as the crowd rushed the stage. The insights into the personalities - particularly vocalist/lyricist Eddie Vedder and the unassuming, dedicated-to-the-art-of-it bassist Jeff Ament - are coupled with lots of music, live video and peer commentary to give you a picture of how far the band's travelled these last 20 years. Enjoyable doc.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Jun 12, 2012
    I don't know where Cam Crowe has been the last six years, and quite frankly, I don't want to know, because somewhere along the way, he succumb to contemporary music, because in 2011, alone, he's gotten Jónsi to do the soundtrack for "We Bought a Zoo" and directed a documentary on Pearl Jam. Granted, Pearl Jam is, well, as the title suggests, in its 20s, so that's not too contemporary, yet that's still post '80s, and I'm not cool with Crowe heading down this path. As another Cameron whose big on films, with music as my other passion (The only reason why I'm not a music critic is because music is dead, and I don't want to make a living getting stuck in the center of the swill that is contemporary "music"), I would say that we have to stick together, but if he's hitting the new wave, then I'm just sticking with "Almost Famous". That being said, it's good to see Crowe back in the business, even if it through the muddy waters of'80s music, if you can tell that's what he's talking about with that esoteric poster that only says, "PJ20". Who's gonna know what that is? I can see someone seeing that poster and saying, "He's been gone for six years, and Cameron Crowe's big comeback is a documentary on pajamas; I figured it would be something about music", and then his friend walks up and tells him that it's a documentary on Pearl Jam, to which the first guy responds, "Again, I figured he'd do something about music". No, Pearl Jam is music, and not even close to the worst, yet neither are they close to the best, and while this is, at the end of the day, quite the rewarding documentary, its subject is actually the least of its problems. The thing about this documentary is that it is incredibly well-produced and phenomonally stylish, and, as you would guess, and as I'll get more into later, that is very much a good thing. However, at the same time, this stellar ultrastyle is also problematic and damaging to the film, as there are many - nay - countless spots in which the film becomes overstylized, with a rather surreastic, or even trailer-like feel that taints the film with the aura of spectacle, often hurting its emotional resonance. Of course, when emotion does fall into play, there are occasions in which its still tainted, finding itself tossed all over the place, in that the documentary will hit some jarring tonal shifts, whether it be through bumpy jumps between dramatic overtones and upbeatness or even a somewhat botched mixing of such two aspects at the same time. The usual culprit behind these jarring tonal shifts is hurried storytelling that leaves the narrative to often feel as though it's simply glossing certain aspects, mostly in a slightly off-putting fashion, and sometimes in a really glaring fashion. I feel that Cameron Crowe is truly a remarkable director, and certainly a remarkable writer, yet a documenary, even on a subject you have deep passion towards, is a very different beast than a feature film, so don't go into this expecting the "Almost Famous" of rockumentaries, because the hardly experienced documentarian Cam Crowe has crafted something that's anything but spotless. However, again, Cameron Crowe is truly a remarkable director, and certainly a remarkable writer. While Crowe has crafted no spotless film, he has still structured and executed an ultimately rewarding documentary, even to someone like me, who's anything but the Pearl Jam fan who the consensus says this film will appeal most to, and he does so with style. As I stated earlier, this film very well stylized, and while it does hit points where it's overstylized to the point of hurting emotional resonance, on the whole, the documentary does one nifty trick after another, whether it be a clever manipulation of imagery and lighting or snappy editing, and while it is that ultrastyle that hurts the film, it also helps in making it so gripping and, at times, actually resonant. Certain stylistic choices corrupt the effectiveness of this film, yet there are quite a few that are manipulated cleverly enough to where they do snap in comfortably with the atmosphere and create genuine investment, and for that, credit not only goes out to Crowe's conceptual writing, but also his direction. Crowe's documentary storytelling is spotty, yet on the whole, he really gets at you with a gripping atmosphere that often summons investment, and does so through a sharp manipulation of many aspects within the film, including aspects that you, or at least I didn't expect to be affected by. Now, this film isn't like the still pretty decent "Some Kind of Monster", where music is unrelenting, yet not a single song on the tracklist is not simply not good, but just plain unbearable, as Pearl Jam is not at the level of low as someone like Metallica, yet they are decidedly mildly-nudge-or-tremendously-miss, in my opinion (Mike McCready's an amazing guitarist though, I'll give them that much), yet were fairly consistent in creating tracks that I don't find emotionally affecting by their own right, regardless of the band's and its audience's pretense, yet the way Crowe will play with some songs in the context of the film will occasionally ameliorate the resonance, as he manages to very skillfully and effectively meditate upon them as supplements to the tone, as well as tunes that I might not find all that enjoyable, yet can see fans getting a real kick out of. Now, don't go thinking that Crowe converted me, because, if this non-stop showcase of Pearl Jam's work has affected my opinion towards the band's music in anyway, it's further opened my eyes to just how weak and - dare I say - music-hurting their work was, yet Crowe's inspiration behind this project is so palpable that he often manages to bypass my disdain for Pearl Jam's music and actually use it to intensify my investment in them, and Crowe doesn't just do that through manipulation of their music, and by the time this documentary sticks the landing by hitting a pretty excellently-done, comfortable wrap-up of an ending, all set to an admittedly pretty incredible guitar solo Mike McCready, it's hard to not look back and find yourself satisfied with the final product of this documentary. Sure, Crowe is often too eager to tell this story to tell it all that comfortably, yet on the whole, he still hits more than he misses, and certainly hits much more than Pearl Jam hit. That being said, this documentary just barely transcends averageness, yet the fact of the matter is that it is so very engaging as an inspired and rewarding study on, not musician's whose work I don't like, but dynamic souls, and the final product of Crowe's inspiration is a generally thoughtful and deeply fascinating meditation upon humans and facing any challenge for the sake of their work. In closing, the film hits points of overstylizing that taints the emotional resonance, much like some jarring tonal shifts and general hurrying, leaving the film to run the risk to fall as simply average, yet through a consistently gripping, phenomenal style, as well as generally well-structured conceptual script by Cameron Crowe, who really brings that script and this documentary, as a whole, to life with a directing job that may not be spotless, yet is extremely inspired, with moments of genuine emotional resonance and consistent intrigue that ultimately leaves "Pearl Jam Twenty" to stand as a thoroughly fascinating and ultimately rewarding study on the highs, lows and all the stuff in between that fell upon the definitive '90s rock band. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2011
    You had me at Cameron Crowe! I don't think that there could have ever been a better combination of filmmaker and band for a documentary. Loved every minute of this!
    Jason R Super Reviewer
  • Nov 16, 2011
    Loved the footage and the interviews. However, it glossed over some details that I think Crowe assumed that the viewer should have already known. Also, it was oddly organized. The first half of the film consisted of your standard rock doc fare, while the second half seemed to jump all over the place. Without the structure, it just felt like Pearl Jam trivia time. Which don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed. I only wish that the second act was as well constructed as the first.
    Reid V Super Reviewer

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