About halfway through this dour documentary about Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, his widow Courtney Love reveals that at the advent of their courtship, “I had already done heroin, beat the thing, had a rule. I loved it still, but I didn’t have a fantasy that he had. He had a fantasy. His fantasy was, ‘I’m gonna get to $3 million and then I’m gonna be a junkie.'” Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic echoes Love, observing that drug use was “all part of the package of building a home” for Cobain.
So, halfway in, you learn that the subject of the documentary is a putz, and much to your dismay, he took a crapload of home video in the last few years of his life demonstrating his putzitude. What follows is a lot of dismal footage of a bedraggled, strung out Cobain and Love spouting banality (either under the influence of heroin or not; it’s hard to tell) while holding their baby, which is like watching two winos toss a crystal vase.
Director Brett Morgen does his best to jump up the material, creatively using all of the detritus of Cobain’s life (scribblings, drawings, home movies, cassettes, paintings) to tell his story, but the story is just not that compelling. Troubled kid, broken home, hates “the man”, puts it all into his angry band, big sound, superstardom which is near immediately resented, and then, the repellent creation of a sneering, condescending persona that presents as tortured and deep only by the efforts of rock critics who use phrases like “voice of a generation” (a moniker lobbed up solely to be spit upon by the acid Cobain) and a shotgun. And at the end, Nirvana really was about a sound. It was a helluva sound, I will grant that, but Cobain only made one record that lyrically matched that sound (Nirvana’s last, In Utero).
For the most part, a whole lot of nothing, though for fans, there’s a lot of good early footage.