Today's the day the world finally gets to watch PJ20 on the big screen. Most of us in the Southern Hemisphere got to see it before Europe and the States, and it's kinda cool knowing that thousands of fans are watching it at the same time. Initially I was expecting a pretty much traditional documentary film. But it doesn't feel like a traditional docu after a while; there's lot of twists and turns to sorta throw you off, thanks to some really clever editing (for example, I never expected to see Dylan, Springsteen or even Elvis in this film!). For the casual fan, it's educational as it is entertaining.
You read about PJ's history in books and articles and you think you know the basic gist of it, but to actually see the real footage is totally something else. It's just overwhelming, the amount of archival footage in the movie, especially during the early '90s -- the Mother Love Bone stuff was kinda mindblowing to see. And about 85% of the film is focused on the first ten years, which is fitting because there were more important events that transformed the band significantly.
Kudos to Cameron Crowe for being able to creatively put together a story that moves seamlessly from one period to the next. And he creates an emotional roller-coaster ride, you'll find yourself laughing (the Singles party was one of the most hilarious scenes in the show, also Stone giving a tour round his house), and sometimes tearing up. We all know the band went through some dark times, and the film doesn't shy away from that. The whole Ticketmaster debacle, the death of Kurt, and of course the incident at Roskilde. All are discussed in moderation, not over the top.
There was some raw footage of Eddie at Roskilde breaking down onstage and watching the tragedy unfold. As painful as it was for him, I'm glad he managed to talk about it for the interview. Speaking of which, all the new interviews with the band was surprisingly candid; they reveal a side of themselves fans don't normally get to see, especially Stone and Jeff. They looked comfortable in expressing themselves. If there's something I wished the film had more of, it's probably these interviews. Also the part about the changing of 'leaders' from Stone to Eddie was glossed over.
Also you can't tell the Pearl Jam story without mentioning Chris Cornell. The whole Temple Of The Dog segment was riveting as it was poignant. And also Pete Townshend and Neil Young. That Rockin' In The Free World performance looked very kick-ass, and so were most of the live performances. Crown Of Thorns on their 10th anniversary (intercut with Mother Love Bone's Andy Wood singing) was an emotional moment for me. Again, it's the sheer amount of footage that makes PJ20 so enjoyable. You just don't want it to end. Also it'd be nice to see a bit more of the story about the changing drummers; the minute-long silent movie parody was a bit out of place.
The film 'predictably' concludes with Alive, taken from Halloween-eve '09, during the band's Philly Spectrum run. It was interspersed with other past performances, and I was stoked to see some footage of one of the Australian shows I was at (Eddie running through the crowd). As the credits roll and Neil Young's Walk With Me plays, the thought suddenly hit me -- I owe a lot to this band, more than I could've imagined; honestly I wouldn't know where I'd be if it weren't for PJ. The film may not be the best rock & roll documentary out there, but essentially it's a big thank-you letter to all the fans, especially the old-timers who've stuck with them through thick and thin. I'm just so incredibly proud to be part of Pearl Jam's history.
P.S. The PJ20 festivities ain't over yet!
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