Film Reviews

Soaked In Bleach

Directed By Benjamin Statler

kurt cobain, nirvana, soaked in bleach

A sensationalist retelling of a sensational story, Benjamin Statler has found look-alike actors and used recorded conversations and interviews with experts to recreate the events surrounding the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Although his fatal 1994 shooting was ruled a suicide by Seattle police, rumors have persisted that the rocker met with foul play. Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, has borne the brunt of the suspicion, but private investigator Tom Grant, hired by Love herself to find Cobain when he went missing, found enough inconsistencies in the reports by police and Cobain intimates alike to spread blame around. Grant’s the star, here.

Basically, Cobain, a known heroin addict, didn’t come home to his increasingly-unwelcome wife. Cobain had apparently asked to remove Love from his will and talked about divorce; on her side, Love wanted to void their prenuptial agreement, which stood to earn her millions—and, if she inherited, conceivably billions in future royalties. Second, Love’s friend/babysitter/drug dealer/former boyfriend Michael “Cali” DeWitt, apparently was in the house at the time of Cobain’s death, but heard nothing. Third, Cobain had three times enough heroin in his system to kill an addict like himself, and 70 times enough to kill, say, me. Fourth, Cobain’s suicide note may well have been a forgery, cobbled together from tracings from his notebooks. Last, but not least, high-profile death cases are normally handled very carefully, since police know that reporters and fans will do their own digging; in this case, the Seattle Police Department saw Cobain’s body, shotgun clutched in his hands, and effectively went, “Yup. Suicide.” Files were slammed shut and Cobain was cremated. Next case.

Statler goes back-and-forth on the timeline leading up to the discovery of Cobain’s body more than I found comfortable, but otherwise, this is a compelling, unemotional argument for further investigation, with footnotes the size of billboards pointing to a likely culprit and enablers. The performances (interspersed with archival footage) are understated and good, the talking head experts seem to know their fields, and the details are well-documented. I’d watch this one twice, to see if I missed any clues.

—Suzanne Cadgène


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