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(1998) (Documentary: Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love) (Not Rated)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Documentary: A documentary filmmaker investigates the life and death of grunge rock superstar, Kurt Cobain, and explores the possibility that his wife, Courtney Love, may have been involved in his death.
Documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield sets out to explore the life and death of Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the hugely successful grunge rock group, Nirvana. Meeting various family members, friends and acquaintances of both Cobain and his wife and fellow rock artist, Courtney Love, Broomfield not only hopes to discover any childhood catalyst that may have led to Cobain's fame, drug use and suicide, but he also investigates allegations that Love may have been responsible for her husband's death.

Along the way, Broomfield meets Kurt's Aunt Mary who encouraged and recorded his early musical efforts, and Courtney's father, Hank Harrison, who, when not selling books about Cobain, believes his daughter killed the rock star. He also interviews a variety of other people, including Kurt's buddy, Dylan, Courtney's ex-boyfriend, Roz, and an odd character by the name of "El Duce" who claims Love offered him money to kill her husband.

If they're fans of Cobain, Love, or their groups Nirvana and Hole, they might.
Had the film been submitted for a rating, it would have earned an R for profanity, brief nudity, and some (mainly implied) drug use.
Everyone's "playing" themselves in this movie, and few if any of them come off as good role models (including Cobain -- suicide and drug use -- and Love -- nasty temper and drug use).


OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
Quite often celebrities -- no matter their profession, but usually occurring more often with movie and rock stars -- eventually succumb to the everyday pressures of being seen through the public's eyes. Conflicting with or occasionally exacerbating their private personas, these people often begin to believe their own press, turn to drugs or, more rarely, take their own lives to "escape."

Such is the case with Kurt Cobain, the late lead singer of the rock group, Nirvana, that ushered in the advent of "grunge rock" and the grungy, flannel shirt wearing fashion that was adopted by fans worldwide. Seemingly at the height of his career, and married with a young daughter, Cobain took his own life after "escaping" from a drug rehab center. Despondent over the artificiality that his sudden success brought him, and saddled with a heroin addiction, Cobain committed suicide. Or did he?

That's the question documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield ("Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam") hopes to investigate and ultimately answer in his latest work, "Kurt & Courtney." Without Cobain around and with a tight-lipped and reportedly omnipotent Love looming above his production, however, Broomfield unfortunately can't go very far with this material. Fans hoping to learn more about Cobain had better look elsewhere as this film runs out of meaningful material fast and consequently turns into something nearing a witch hunt.

For a while the film seems as if it might have something going for it, as we visit Kurt's aunt and see and hear early images and recordings of the future rock star. We also see Kurt's artwork that clearly proved that he was troubled throughout his short life. Soon, however, -- and as Broomfield doesn't hesitate to tell us repeatedly -- we learn that Love evidently controls all of her former husband's work and is actively trying to stop this film.

Consequently, there's not much material of Cobain himself -- save for bits of one interview and some brief home movie footage -- for us to see or hear. Nor are there interviews with his former band members, roadies, managers, or others who would have had relatively close contact with the troubled performer. Thus, the filmmaker quickly resorts to interviewing some questionable characters who claim to have past personal relationships with the couple.

A few of those moments, such as time spent with Courtney's ex, are unexpectedly funny. Still fuming that she ruined his musical career to further his, and having had some recent bad contact with Courtney and her camp, Roz takes advantage of his moment on camera and lets his ex-lover have a piece of his mind in a rather funny diatribe.

In fact, most of the interviews are unintentionally funny -- at least for moviegoers who don't take any of the underground rock n' roll theatrics seriously. What's sad, but also disturbing, is that Broomfield takes what these less than reputable characters say as gospel and then runs with what may be the truth, but most likely is the product of some lowlifes seeking their fifteen minutes of fame.

Any serious documentarian or investigator would undoubtably attempt to validate "evidence" that others have brought forth. Broomfield, on the other hand, nearly turns this into a witch hunt -- albeit an often comical one -- ultimately trying to get Love to admit to killing her husband (or at least have him killed) after listening to the allegations and "evidence" brought forth by her estranged father, a private detective and others.

While Love is certainly no angel -- as demonstrated by a "charming" tape recording of a threatening phone message she left someone -- she does deserve the old "benefit of the doubt" and "innocent until proven guilty" tenets, especially after the shady "character witnesses" have soiled her already shaky reputation. However, none of that's to be found here.

Of course Broomfield has the right to be upset if Love and her camp tried to put the kibosh on this documentary, and his efforts are certainly deflated by not having much source material with which to work. Featuring grainy original footage, shaky camera work and an extremely low budget feel, he's definitely been hurt by a lack and/or removal of financial backing.

Even so, he's apparently made the cardinal sin of letting his personal feelings get in the way of making the film. He's clearly got an ax to grind, but no way to thoroughly sharpen it. If not for the unplanned humorous moments -- which are only byproducts of the film's "investigation" -- this picture would have quickly become near unbearable to sit through.

If you want to see an odd, but occasionally and certainly unintentionally funny look at the dark underbelly of life and the characters that reside there, then this film might be of interest to you. On the other hand, if you're looking for some original insight regarding the life and death of Kurt Cobain and his relationship with his wife -- beyond what's already publicly known -- you'll surely be disappointed by this offering, especially in the second half. I came away knowing next to nothing new about them, other than the murder conspiracy theory that's never fully explored and certainly not resolved. We give "Kurt & Courtney" a 2.5 out of 10.

Although it's questionable how many kids will want to see this documentary, here's a quick look at the content. Profanity is extreme with 20+ "f" words and an assortment of others. We briefly see some bare-breasted women. Tense family issues are brought up, but we don't see any of that on the screen, which also holds true for the bad attitudes for the most part (although we hear a lot of implied things, as well as some brief, threatening messages from Love and Cobain on separate occasions). Finally, although we don't see any use, many references are made concerning the couples' use and addiction to heroin and other drugs.

  • It's repeatedly stated that both Kurt and Courtney were heavy heroin users, but we don't see any of that (and it's stated that Love said that she and Kurt "bonded pharmaceutically over drugs").
  • We see a photo spread of Courtney with some pills around her, but we don't know of what variety.
  • We see a photo of a man holding a beer.
  • An old acquaintance comments on Kurt, Courtney and others doing "lines of coke" (cocaine).
  • Dylan comments about getting simultaneous calls from Kurt and Courtney wanting speed and dope respectively.
  • A former nanny drinks a beer.
  • While not bloody, we do see partial glimpses of Kurt's body on the floor in a still photograph.
  • Although not seen, Kurt's old girlfriend states that he once gave her an artistic collage that showed pieces of meat and "diseased vaginas."
  • It's mainly implied that Courtney has both, but we do hear a threatening message from her and hear about other similar behavior (and hear a threatening message from Kurt stating that he might hire someone to kill the person he's calling).
  • Many of the people interviewed may have both for making false accusations and/or lying about knowing the famous couple (such as "El Duce" stating that Courtney offered to pay him $50,000 to kill Cobain).
  • None.
  • Shotgun: Used by Cobain to kill himself (not seen, although we see photos of the shotgun itself), and referred to several times.
  • Handgun: Purchased on the street as seen in a promotional video for another band.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (said by Courtney toward another woman on an answering machine), "Idiot" and "Pissed."
  • Although not seen, it is noted that Cobain committed suicide with a shotgun and that several distraught fans followed that with copycat suicides.
  • It's mentioned that as a kid Kurt used to enjoy shooting his BB gun across the street at an office building (not seen).
  • Some fans at a rock concert give "the finger" in unison, and "El Duce" does the same to the camera in a later scene.
  • Several people have pierced noses or multi-pierced ears.
  • None.
  • None.
  • A song by "El Duce" includes lines such as "You're my personal whore," and "My sex slave..."
  • At least 26 "f" words (1 used with "mother" and 4 seen written), 1 possible slang term for female genitals (the "p" word), 7 asses (1 used with "hole"), 2 craps, 2 hells, and 2 uses of "G-damn," and 1 use each of "God," "Oh my God," "Oh God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • Courtney's old boyfriend comments that they didn't sleep together for nearly a year after they started dating. Talking to the camera, Roz states, "No, Courtney, you're not that good in bed. None of us are. Sex is mainly up here (pointing to his head)."
  • It's reported that "El Duce" had live sex acts on stage during his shows, but we don't see any. During a promotional video, however, we do see several shots of bare-breasted women, along with most of another woman's bare butt (in her thong bottom).
  • A woman being interviewed shows some cleavage, and Courtney shows just a tiny bit.
  • Courtney smokes once (and we see several photos of her smoking).
  • Other people smoke as well.
  • We learn that Kurt's parents divorced when he was eight. Consequently he was forced out of his home and had to go and live with a teacher. Likewise, we learn that Courtney also had a rough childhood. We only hear about all of this, however, and don't see any of it.
  • During this film, Courtney's father admits that he believes his daughter had Kurt killed, and we learn that there's still tension between the two of them.
  • The "side effects" of fame and fortune -- and how people who have both occasionally turn to drugs or even commit suicide due to the pressure or disillusionment with their own lives.
  • The allegations made that Love was somehow responsible for Cobain's death.
  • Although not seen, Kurt's suicide by shotgun is referenced several times.
  • Courtney's father comments on her violent predisposition and her stabbing a kid when she was younger and getting into fights with others, but we don't see any of it.
  • A rock performer purposefully swings his microphone at a fan who grabs it, causing the performer to go over and start kicking at him.

  • Reviewed June 17, 1998

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