Michael Azerrad, a journalist for Rolling Stone, conducted a series of audio-recorded interviews with musician Kurt Cobain, a year or so before the musician's death, from December 1992 to March 1993.
Azerrad used those interviews as the basis of his book on the 90s grunge-rock group Nirvana. Several years later, filmmaker A.J. Schnack took those 25 hours of audiotape as the basis of this documentary.
Schnack uses no narration. He carefully cuts those 25 hours down by 90 percent to some of the most poignant and revealing soundbytes, fluidly strung together to give an idea of Cobain's thoughts and feelings, growing up in Washington, and his experiences regarding his career.
While Schnack uses some of Cobain's music, the movie is neither about Nirvana nor the band. Schnack cuts that away and focuses more on Cobain's emotions regarding his personal life before and outside his music life. Although he talks about it, it's more about Cobain's inner struggles.
Schnack uses no other interviews or any other voices. It's all Cobain's voice; all his direct, first person accounts, and all of them are very candid and honest confessions.
Some of it is really strange as when Cobain is commenting on his childhood, saying he thought he was adopted and feeling like he's really from space aliens.
Others are fascinating like when Cobain speaks of his disconnection from family and society, due to low self-esteem and general annoyance by those around him. Yet, Cobain admits befriending a gay teen that tried to kiss him, and later having people assume Cobain was gay and he being proud of it.
Cobain is interesting and even funny when he drops little nuggets of knowledge like his guitar contributed to his scoliosis, or that he's not a dog person but prefers cats.
However, when Cobain starts to talk about his homelessness due to the fact that he simply refused to work, and his time when he began to drift from place to place, the film itself begins to do the same.
Forty minutes into the movie, I got sick of it. The movie became very dry and dull. While you're listening to Cobain essentially ramble on and on, Schnack shows us b-roll of the three houses where Cobain lived and the various jobs he worked.
Schnack takes us to Aberdeen, Olympia, and eventually Seattle. The film becomes a voiced-over travelogue of Washington State. A decade or so following Cobain's death, Schnack captures some very touching visuals that illustrate and reflect the environment Cobain inhabited.
Not once throughout the entire piece does Schnack show us a single picture of Cobain, not till the very end when we see stills of Kurt in black-and-white. It's all just Cobain's words, which sadly aren't enough to carry this film, at least not for as long as it did.
Perhaps, it's just I personally did not come to enjoy Cobain's personality. He was not a great person of substance. He admitted his own music was not that special, and that it just had memorable or catchy hooks. His "pissed off in general" attitude was nothing new or earth shattering. He was lazy, a moocher, and a drug addict, again nothing new when it comes to life stories of musicians.
Cobain basically complains and rants for the last third of the movie. Much of it makes no sense, and maybe would be appealing only to the most hardcore of fans. Otherwise, it's rather unflattering and has Cobain come across as a jerk. Maybe that's who he really was, but at this point, I became bored by it.
Schnack's comments in the DVD's special features sum up this autobiography of sorts as a movie about landscapes as through Cobain's words. It's not just about locations, but people, and while Schnack's attempt to make a point about Cobain's legacy is an interesting one, it's ultimately lost here.
Three Stars out of Five
Rated R for language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.