As anyone who has seen Almost Famous knows, filmmaker Cameron Crowe used to be a rock journalist - a talented upstart who was publishing in Rolling Stone when he was still in high school.
In Pearl Jam Twenty, Crowe, a longtime resident of Seattle and friend to the members of its most celebrated band, brings his reportorial chops to bear, setting out to chronicle the origins, evolution, and current status of the rock outfit fronted by Eddie Vedder.
A must-see for Pearl Jam fans - and for folks keen on gleaning insights into the pressures that come with megastardom - Crowe's doc has a field day with old archival recordings, videos of nascent club shows, and serious sit-downs with a charmingly contemplative Vedder, bassist Jeff Ament, guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, and current drummer Matt Cameron. (Pearl Jam has gone through a lot of drummers in the course of its 20 - now 21 - years, and just when Crowe's movie is in danger of taking this personnel business too seriously, it cuts to a clip from This Is Spinal Tap, with the mock bandmates lamenting their drummer woes.)
Pearl Jam Twenty begins with footage of the storied Andrew Wood, lead singer of Mother Love Bone, Ament's and Gossard's scruffy late-'80s ensemble. Wood (a Jack Black doppelganger) died of a heroin overdose when he was 24, and the band dissolved. From its ashes was born Pearl Jam, and based on an audition cassette mailed in from a San Diego surfer dude with a beautifully rough voice, Vedder flew up to Seattle and met the band.