'Soaked in Bleach': Film Review

Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
A persuasive argument that Cobain's death should be re-investigated

The Kurt-and-Courtney arguments will never die.

Most of the world seems content with the official narrative about Kurt Cobain: He was yet another rock star who got lost in drugs and depression, killing himself in his prime; anyone who suspects foul play is a "conspiracy theorist" motivated by blind idol-worship. But more than 20 years later, some remain convinced Nirvana's frontman was killed, probably at the direction of Cobain's wife, Courtney Love. Giving them voice is Soaked in Bleach, first-time filmmaker Benjamin Statler's platform for the arguments tirelessly made by private investigator Tom Grant. Despite a low-rent aesthetic that (like Grant's all-caps-happy website) doesn't sufficiently distance it from the tinfoil-hat world, Soaked presents evidence one has a hard time dismissing. Even without the lurid magnetism Nick Broomfield offered in his more timely, less respectable Kurt & Courtney, the doc should have a considerable life online.

Grant was the P.I. Love hired days before Cobain died to find him after he left a Los Angeles rehab center. Grant is both the main storyteller here and the source of scores of damning audiotapes — mistrustful of his client, he taped his conversations with Love and with other players in the drama, both before and after Cobain's body was found. Those tapes are the basis for reenactments here, with actors playing the detective and Love — who is envisioned as a grotesque narcissist whose behavior is so sleazy Statler might as well emblazon the words "greedy adulterous murderer" on an arrow pointing at her. While his technique lacks finesse, the source material does the job: On tape, Love certainly sounds like someone weaseling around the truth, and the couple's friend and attorney Rosemary Carroll raises even more doubts when discussing wills, prenuptial agreements and dubious suicide notes.

Carroll doesn't appear here, and neither do any of the other members of Cobain's circle who were around during his final days. That does nothing for the doc's credibility, but what does help is the presence of forensic and law-enforcement types like retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and Cyril Wecht, the former president of the American Academy of Forensic Science. These interviewees dispassionately back up points made by Grant about discrepancies at the crime scene and sloppiness in the police's behavior. By the time Wecht declares that this is a death that simply has to be reinvestigated, even a viewer with no special attachment to Cobain's legacy is likely to agree.

Production company: Daredevil Films
Director: Benjamin Statler
Screenwriter-producers: Benjamin Statler, Donnie Eichar, Richard Middleton
Director of photography: Ben Kutchins
Editors: Javier Alvarez, David Moritz
Music: Peter G. Adams

No rating, 89 minutes

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