Buzzo from the Melvins has called Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck “90 percent bullshit”, and now Soaked in Bleach arrives with its own jive. Courtney Love has been busy issuing cease-and-desist orders to any theatre that dares show the film, which—in contrast to HBO’s officially-sanctioned bio—returns to the nagging question of who really pulled the trigger on Kurt. Not that Ms. Love’s efforts are stopping the Rio from holding an encore screening of the film on Sunday (June 28).
Love’s oddly toothless actions do little to improve her case. There are seven pages of comments about Soaked in Bleach on its IMDb page, all of them positive except one, most of them asking why Cobain’s widow hasn’t just gone ahead and sued the guy—private investigator Tom Grant— who’s spent the last 21 years steadfastly accusing her of foul play. Meanwhile, the AV Club and Hollywood Reporter are among the “respectable” outlets who concede that Grant’s evidence, as presented in Benjamin Statler’s “docudrama”, isn’t “easily dismissed”.
Still, if you’re already acquainted with Grant’s premise, Soaked in Bleach adds very little. The former LA County Sheriff’s Detective was hired by Love to find her missing husband in the last week of his life. Grant’s experience with Love “raised so many red flags” that he decided to record their phone calls, and what we hear in Soaked in Bleach isn’t pretty.
Then again, neither are the film’s shallow re-enactments of Grant’s little odyssey, staged by Statler with a self-defeating bias that almost sinks the whole project (Daniel Roebuck plays Grant, Sarah Scott hams it up as Mrs. Cobain). Love’s words are damning enough, especially when you also hear Cobain’s attorney Rosemary Carroll floating her grave suspicions to Grant—at least until she realizes she’s being taped.
Indeed, it’s the talking heads that do most of the convincing here, from Grant, to famed coroner Cyril Wecht, to former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, who readily declares that the investigation was botched and should be reopened. That’s where Statler might have scored the most points. Cobain’s death was handled appallingly; the body and evidence destroyed with undue haste; the media blind in its reporting of misinformation that persists to this day. Add to that a hinky suicide note, forensics that don’t add up, and the implausibilty of Cobain managing to blow his own head off after shooting three times the lethal dose of smack.
Ah, smack. A Village Voice review of Soaked in Bleach makes the not unreasonable point that junkies lie. And they lie and lie again. Which could throw an entirely different complexion on all of Love’s twisting. It doesn’t mean she had her husband killed. If Soaked in Bleach hadn’t overplayed its hand, it might have fared better in a climate that’s so hostile to anything with the whiff of so-called conspiracy theory.
It’s sad because those same skeptics will kneejerk their way past the larger point here. At the very least it appears that the Seattle Police Department closed ranks around a very poorly executed investigation. And for reasons we still can’t fathom, Courtney Love was content to let it happen. And that’s after allowing for the implausibility of the practice suicide note…
Soaked in Bleach screens at the Rio Theatre on Sunday (June 28)