In the world of great conspiracy theories, I would put the mystery surrounding the death of Nirvana’s main man, Kurt Cobain, somewhere between who killed JFK and wondering who stole the cookie from the cookie jar. Frankly, I may be alone in my feelings.
More than 20 years after the death of the Seattle grunge icon, the question remains, “did Cobain commit suicide, or was he the victim of dastardly deeds?” The docudrama, “Soaked in Bleach,” available for download on Vimeo, details — and I mean details — every little nuance surrounding the singer, his wife Courtney Love, and coterie of rather salty hangers on, and the
Seattle PD disguised as the Keystone Cops. The saga is seen through the eyes of veteran gumshoe Tom Grant, a former LA County Sheriff’s detective, whose level of investigatory granularity puts him up there with Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, and the crew from your favorite “CSI.”
At best, the film is uneven. At worst, it’s a mishmash of actual recording, interviews with Monday Morning Quarterback experts and some rather unbelievable re-enactments. With such staging, “Soaked In Bleach” is more a VH1 “Behind the Music” than the great doc “All This Mayhem.” The back and forth between mano-a-mano interviews with the “real” Tom Grant and the replica Tom Grant (played by Daniel Roebuck of “The Fugitive” and “The Late Shift” fame) is jarring and brings down the narrative’s believability a notch of two. Also, the last 30 minutes (or perhaps even more) consists of a parade of former law enforcement folks as forensic specialists taking pot shots at the Seattle Police Department’s lousy handling of Cobain’s alleged suicide.
The premise behind director Benjamin Statler’s doc is that Cobain did not commit suicide, but rather was murdered. In evidence is the fact that the dose of heroin he took was too strong to even allow him to hold a gun let alone carefully blow his brains out. Also at issue is the countless lies and false communiques from Courtney Love who, as the film points out, was likely to be divorced by the rock star, leaving her in a somewhat precarious financial position.
While maybe not Oscar-worthy, Statler does make his points: the total crap job done by the Seattle PD in its investigation; the rush to judgement by those behind the scenes; the media misperceptions made public such as the contents of Cobain’s suicide note; and the impact the singer’s death had on a generation of fans who idolized the man who symbolized misunderstood, apathetic kids in the early ’90s. The film is a bit too ambitious in its goal of trying to finally put to rest an issue a complex issue that has been addressed in numerous books, magazine articles, and even other films.
“Soaked in Bleach,” a term that connotes the tainting of empirical evidence, is an earnest effort that should interest those quarter of a billion people that have watched “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on YouTube and general conspiracy theorists. Next time around, I encourage the filmmakers to tighten things up and do away with the fake staging.