A documentary surrounding the death of grunge icon and Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, his marriage to Courtney Love, and the possibility that the latter may have had something to do with Cobain’s death. He even manages to get a brief interview with a burly, beer-drinking former ‘musician’ named El Duce, who claims Love hired him to whack Cobain. This Nick Broomfield documentary is a hard one to get one’s head around. It’s never dull and frequently fascinating, so I can’t rightly give it a bad grade, as entertainment is a really big factor in assessing a film’s worth for me.
However, as a film, and more importantly as a documentary, it’s so intrusive, subjective, prejudiced and borderline defamatory that it’s actually a bad film in some ways. The fact that I dislike Courtney Love only slightly less than Broomfield seems to (and he quite clearly thinks she’s Satan) helped me tolerate Broomfield’s nonsense a bit more, though I firmly believe Cobain killed himself. However, for a lot of people, this is going to be the opposite of what they feel a documentary should be, and I feel a duty to lay it all out there for you. It’s rambling, involves some seriously dodgy people saying rather dubious things whilst potentially on mind-altering substances, and I’m not even sure it has a real statement being made by the end except that Kurt Cobain died and Courtney Love is the most fake-arse, horrible person on the planet. It gets those two points across, no doubt about it.
Thank God that the subject matter, slanted or not, is mostly interesting (especially to someone like me who was about 14 when Cobain died) because Broomfield’s poor man’s Michael Moore ambush tactics are appallingly sloppy. Especially considering he’s not really ambushing anyone, it’s just that he’s so incompetent it comes across like he’s planning an ambush. Dude, you’re barging in to buildings with a camera and boom mike, and you’re surprised to be met with hostility? Really? I’m not buying your phony indignation, I’m afraid. I enjoyed Broomfield’s doco on female serial killer Aileen Wuornos (“Aileen Wuornos: Selling of a Serial Killer”), but even there he got a little too close to his subject, and injected himself into the story far too often. Here more than ever before, Broomfield at times comes across like he’s more concerned with his own struggles to make the film, than being about either Kurt Cobain or Courtney Love or their relationship, or Cobain’s death. I’m not even sure Broomfield is a particularly accomplished documentarian, and it’s obvious that several of his interviewees are dubious in the extreme (Courtney Love’s deeply bitter father and the truly absurd- and clearly drunk- ‘El Duce’ in particular). I mean, even Kurt’s Aunt Mary has a kind of ‘Groovy Christian/Guidance Counsellor who isn’t anything remotely groovy’ vibe about her, nice as she seems (and she clearly nurtured Kurt in his early interests in music). It’s hard to really accept a documentary when so many of the people interviewed either have an agenda or are inebriated to some degree, and Broomfield should’ve been smart enough to weed a couple of the more dubious ones out as they aren’t terribly helpful to him or his case (Neither is Broomfield himself, but anyway...). I’m still not 100% convinced every one of these people even knew either Love or Cobain personally.
True, Courtney Love’s interference and litigious threats impacted on the film itself to the point where Broomfield (who had all kinds of funding issues during filming) had to be very careful about what music he used in the film. Even so, the film isn’t a technical masterpiece in the slightest, and his anti-Love agenda comes across as almost as spiteful as Love’s father’s, deserved or not. Love may well have declined an offer to participate, but that doesn’t mean Broomfield can use her lack of cooperation (or his anger towards her for that) as an excuse to half-heartedly infer that she was complicit in a murder that kinda sorta 99.99% more than likely didn’t happen. Sure, some of the interviewees are sceptical of the murder theory, but there’s no doubt Broomfield has slanted things in favour of that theory, at least slightly, before finishing the film without ultimately coming down firmly on either side. Like I said, it’s half-hearted (at least Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, and Glenn Beck are fully committed in their conspiracy theories), much like when Broomfield and his cronies, a couple of lame-arse PI’s, get an opportunity to speak to Love herself and pussy out (though Broomfield does do a bit of gatecrashing/Grand-standing at an ACLU function in Love’s honour, which is amusing in a douchebag way).
But I can’t deny that I was engrossed in a lot of this, even when I was offended and appalled by a lot of Broomfield’s frankly douchy behaviour. I mean, he may sound a bit like Louis Theroux but he’s not as talented and twice as annoying and egotistical. It’s quite an entertaining watch, if a tad unpleasant, of course. Those interested in the subject matter will hardly find it boring, if incendiary, and a lot of the points being made about Ms. Love are likely not far from the truth. Did anyone really buy her ‘I’m a movie star now!’ turnaround of 1996/7? Not me, and not Broomfield, that’s for sure. It sure was a bizarre moment in time, though, wasn’t it? Let’s face it, with this many people verbally attacking her (axes to grind or not), some of this has to stick, right?
Meanwhile, some very well-chosen childhood photos and sound recordings provided by Kurt’s Aunt are especially affecting towards the end. Kurt was a cute kid, once, and a million miles away from everything he’d become, good and bad. And clearly bitter or not, the entire film is almost worth it to hear from Roz, a former boyfriend of Love’s who rants and raves to camera about how she basically stole his career. He’s hilarious, and probably one of the least chemically impaired interviewees in the entire film. As for El Duce (is that pronounced ‘El Douchy’? Just wondering), you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the clip for his ‘Sex Slave’ song. Wow. But honestly, you won’t believe a word the guy says, especially considering he claims to be in his mid 30s but looks to be well over 50!
I almost hated this film, it’s frankly not very well made, and yet...I’m not giving it a bad score. Yeah, figure that one out. Or better yet, watch the film (most people probably have by now) and tell me you don’t come out with a similarly complex reaction. It’s worth seeing at least once, but I’d rather re-watch the excellent 2007 documentary “Kurt Cobain- About a Son” (which really made Kurt seem like a sweet-natured, generally nice man with a helluva lot of problems). Hmmm, maybe I’m the one being half-hearted here. I guess what I’m saying is that although not a good movie, it’s a piece of trash, and sometimes I (like many people) am fascinated or at least amused by trash. I watch “TMZ” every now and then, for instance. That’s good trash, for the most part. This is OK trash.