I was never really a *big* fan of Nirvana, or the philosophical lyrics of their lead singer Kurt Cobain. I mean, I was under ten years old when they reached the height of their popularity. So I was much more into listening to Ren & Stimpy albums than I was into the grunge scene. But in my 20s, I gained a sort of general fondness for a chunk of Nirvana’s songs. At the very least, I really liked all of the covers on that Unplugged album.
So I enjoyed that this documentary came along, because I had never really sought out much about Kurt Cobain before then. I just knew the basics; what the music sounded like, that they were the most popular band in the world at one point, Courtney Love may or may not have thrown a wrench in things, and then Cobain killed himself with a shotgun at 27, amidst controversy/conspiracy.
This was a rather stylish doc, using mostly (pretty great) home video footage of Cobain as a kid, him with his band, and later him with his family. It also relies heavily on using a concerningly large number of handwritten notes and drawings from Cobain, impressively spanning his entire life, and then the director took the liberty of animating and livening up that stuff in a really stylish way. I’m not sure I fully enjoyed the way everything was animated, because I couldn’t fully decipher if this was what was going on in Kurt’s head as he was writing it, or merely just what the director *assumed* what was going on in Kurt’s head, if that makes sense? There was a lot of implied tone, I guess I’m saying.
But I got plenty of valuable, and really interesting information about the guy’s life from watching this. He was a messed up dude, from a pretty early age. I guess you don’t write hundreds of pages of incoherent ramblings and frightening drawings if you’re a sane person. I think we was a guy who just had a LOT on his mind, and he tried his best to get it out there, if not only for his sake.
But perhaps the biggest flaw of the documentary, and it’s a pretty huge one, is that it ends of kind of a happy note, but then cuts to text saying “One month later, Kurt committed suicide.” ROLL CREDITS. Wait, what?! You’re telling me that there’s no insight to be had on the one part of his life that everyone wants insight on? I guess I can forgive if there is literally nothing to be said because there’s literally no information on it, but c’mon! This wasn’t a compelling conclusion. He was suicidal his whole life, but I guess we’ll never know what finally topped him over the edge…
Well, actually, now that I think about it, earlier in the documentary, Courtney Love tells a story about how he tried to kill himself because he thought she was going to cheat on him… So if he had actually died in that attempt, we’d have pretty solid, kind of dumb logic behind why he died. I’m saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if he killed himself over something weird and trivial like that, because he was a super sensitive dude who overreacted a lot, and not because like he was making a grand statement about how society has torn apart his soul or something. Also, he was a crazy heroin addict.
Now, to bring this review closer to an end, I’ll just blurt out the rest of the random thoughts that I jotted down about the documentary…
-Cobain seemed to have a real hatred for Guns N Roses. He mentions them several times over the course of the film in a mocking, sarcastic way. It was pretty funny.
-They got a ton of people really close to Kurt to interview for this… So they *had* to have asked Dave Grohl, and he just declined to be in it, right? I wonder what the story behind that is?
-I always kind of thought of Kurt Cobain as this older-and-more-weathered-than-me type person, because for most of my life I was younger than he was. But for the possibly the first time, I finally was watching him as this dumb 20-something kid. I guess that just means I’m getting older…
-It’s kind of amazing just how much footage there is of Kurt and Courtney’s personal home life. Like, a LOT of really intimate personal moments. They always had the camera running, I guess? But a lot of the footage was of the both of them doing something… So, who was holding the camera?
-On a similar note, the footage of Kurt holding and playing with his baby daughter Francis made me suuuuuuuper sad. Like, really depressed me. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for Francis to watch this footage now, and see the young dad she never knew, usually zonked out on drugs, holding and loving her, while Courtney Love yells in their ears. It was a weird scene in that house.
-But seriously, Courtney Love is a really loud person. And she likes showing her boobs for no reason.
-Though, I am kind of convinced now after watching this that the theory that Courtney Love had something to do with murdering Kurt or something probably isn’t the case (they don’t talk about that in the documentary, but I’ve just heard it before). I mean, 1) she doesn’t seem smart enough to pull something like that off and get away with it. And 2) I think Cobain was just a troubled guy, and had been his whole life. Kind of a dumb theory.
-Early, pre-record deal Nirvana kind of sucked.
To close this out, I’d say this doc is worth watching, even if you’re like me and haven’t really been all that invested in Nirvana or Kurt Cobain. It’s entertaining and intriguing enough that I stayed up until 1:20 AM watching it, because I started watching it way too late, and didn’t want to stop. But it’s definitely not the greatest thing in the world, and it doesn’t give you nearly as many answers as you’d like it to. Though, it’s probably still worth it for all of Cobain’s personal archives. It’s available on HBO right now. Watch it if you want. Whatever. Nevermind.
8 out of 10