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Some Thoughts On “Soaked In Bleach”


From Biggie Smalls to Elliot Smith to 2Pac to Bobby Fuller and beyond, you show me a murdered popstar and I’ll show you a botched Police Inquiry. Perhaps it has to do with the proximity to fame that addles the Detectives brains but the Seattle Police Department are just one in a long list, their ruling Kurt Cobain’s death a suicide hours after his body was discovered was an unconscionable dereliction of duty. But you know this because you read Alyson Camus’ review of Benjamin Statler’s investigative documentary “Soaked In Bleach” about the circumstances surrounding Cobain death (here).

Statler and Private Investigator Tom Grant make a good case for the suicide ruling to be overturned. Which is, of course, the whole point of the movie. So let’s agree Statler makes his point, agree with everybody, and complain at the lameness of its portrayal of so much of what happened. Grant was hired to find Cobain by Love, and discovered Cobain’s death over the radio. Tom has spent the last twenty years of his life explaining this.

The reenactments of Grant’s first meetings with Courtney, the figure of doubt here, are ridiculous. Grant can’t look at her without doing a double take at the smudgy, miscreant junked up manipulative horrorshow in this movie. Portrayed by actress Sarah Scott -and undoubtedly as directed to, as a bisexualist toxic junkie, the entire effect is unreal, it is like a cartoon. Daniel Roebuck, to contradict Alyson, is not very good at all as Grant: he is Roger Rabbit getting banged over the head by Love’s anvil, he stretches credibility well past the breaking point. If Statler was better, he might have gotten inside the Love-Grant dynamic, or at least Grant’s view of it: the relationship is beyond one dimensional, it is half a dimension.   That isn’t Courtney Love, that’s Cruella DeVille. If Grant hated her guts and distrusted from the jump why did he take the case? The man is never on her side, Love is his client I might remind you, for one second, from the moment he looks at her (she might as well be naked, he claims, as though that has anything at all to do with it), he distrusts her and dislikes her, and when she is open to him, discussing how upset she is about Cobain blowing an offer of a million bucks to perform at Lollapalooza, after Hole turned it down, Grant looks completely repulsed. Why? He is a PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR NOT A BOY SCOUT. Plus, the story makes no sense at all, why would Hole have to give up Lollapalooza if Nirvana were playing? Surely the exact opposite is true.

Everything being claimed about Grant and Love are polemics, and it weakens the movie. I don’t trust Statler on the small details and it weakens him on the big picture. While Benjamin doesn’t hide his bias, it is up front, still to say: “here are the facts, you decide” is to ignore the extreme slant of the story. A couple of years ago I assigned Alyson Camus to write a post about every good thing she could find on Jennifer Chiba. Why? Because  the truth is, as Jean Renoir once claimed,  “everybody has their reasons, therein lies the tragedy”. To find the truth you need to find the reason. Statler’s reason for Love is that Love is a psychopath. That’s his story. More or less, the implication is, they were getting divorced and Love had her ex boyfriend kill him before Cobain could disinherit her. Not bad for a drug addicted mess in smudged eyeliner and see through nightgowns. Maybe that’s true, but the story I’m being told feels like a fairytale with Tom as Cinderella and Kurt as his Daddy who died and Love as the evil step mother, including Love’s entourage, all in her pay, as the stepsisters and you have the vision here.

The truth is, if you take away Tom’s whining (“the police didn’t see it either” is his most consistent excuse), his investigation was atrocious. Love paid him to find Kurt, Kurt was in the house and Grant still couldn’t find him? What was the goddamn hurry, why would Grant take the word of Love’s troll and not do a thorough search? Why didn’t he go through every room on every floor. He missed an entire floor because he didn’t know it was there and it was raining? That is pathetic. Grant had one job, to search the fucking house, and he failed miserably. It is inexcusable shoddy detective work. It’s like hearing there is a drowned body in a swimming pool and not checking the deep end.  Indeed, if I was Love I’d request a refund. It maybe the single worst piece of detective work on record and Grant has spent the past twenty years making excuses for himself. If Grant had done his job well he might well have saved Cobain, one way or the other.

Look, if there was any self-awareness about “Soaked In Bleach”, any guilty as charged, if the story had run like this:

1 – I was impressed to be working for Love.

2 – I didn’t perform my true diligence and got conned by her.

3 – I am sorry.

Well, maybe I could buy into it, as it stands, the entire story is a long “what if…”. Or if that is too mean, and truly, once you get past the reenactments and the time before Cobain’s death, the movie clicks into place and Grant’s tireless work on the case is very impressive, the pre-death is terrible and false.

Look, along with Biggie, Cobain was the most important musical figure of the 1990s, and the voice of his generation, and, in many ways, his basic moral philosophy, outlandish at the time, is the moral currency of the 21st century. However, Love made a good album with Pretty On The Inside, and a masterpiece with Live Through This. She was the real deal. I saw her MTV Unplugged in Brooklyn in 1995 and you have my word, she was great. I am not claiming greatness justifies murder, I am saying the Love portrayed in “Soaked In Bleach” is inaccurate.

But the problem with “Soaked In Bleach” is Tom. Tom has a story to tell that has nothing to do with Love and Cobain and everything to do with forgiving himself. If the movie dealt with that it would have had the arc of a true dramatic tragedy, because it doesn’t, it appears to be a partial truth and will fail in reopening the case.

Grade: B






  1. john hoving on June 14, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Man oh Man how these writers can actually write a “review”, then post it on the internet, in it make accusations and character assassinations WITHOUT doing one ounce of research or FACT CHECKING!
    So Mr. Iman Lababedi for the record, the statement of yours below is completly false and clearly shows you know nothing about this case. It would have been so simple to just sit down and look some shit up, i.e. FACT CHECK, before making outrageous proclamations and denigrating someones reputation and the work they did on a case.

    ” Love paid him to find Kurt, Kurt was in the house and Grant still couldn’t find him? What was the goddamn hurry, why would Grant take the word of Love’s troll and not do a thorough search? Why didn’t he go through every room on every floor. He missed an entire floor because he didn’t know it was there and it was raining? That is pathetic. Grant had one job, to search the fucking house, and he failed miserably. It is inexcusable shoddy detective work.”

    The greenhouse, which is where Kurt Cobain’s body was found, is NOT part of the house. It is above the garage separated from the house altogether. Tom Grant checked every room in the main house on two occasions, thoroughly and documented this in writing in addition to tape recording it. He did not know about the green house above the garage and could not see it due to the darkness and rainy conditions. This was coraberated by an investigative reporter when he went back to the house under similar environmental circumstances and experienced the same thing, he could not see that there was a structure above the garage. Clearly you were sleeping during this part of the movie!

    If your going to call anybody out, try Dylan Carlson, Kurt’s “best friend” who was with Mr. Grant, and who not only knew about the greenhouse above the garage and was even told by Ms. Love during a telephone conversation to check up there. That conversation between Love and Carlson took place in front of Rosemary Carroll earlier in the evening. When Mr. Grant asked Dylan if there was “any where else to check” prior to leaving the house, Mr.. Carlson, replied “no”. Again you must have been sleeping during this part of the movie!

    This kind of hack reporting is just another example of how the misinformation of this case’s facts has been relayed by the press from day one. Press who are just too lazy to check facts and simply write whatever the hell they want. Dr. Cyril Wecht reminded the viewers in the movie that President Kennedy had called for integrity in the press decades ago, clearly no one ever paid attention to those very wise words!

    • admin on June 14, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      i dunno, seems to me if your one job is to check the house youd check the house – mIL

    • duhlian on June 14, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Well said John.

  2. liam hickey on June 15, 2015 at 3:18 am

    Awful review coming from the most kneejerk case of cognitive dissonance i’ve yet to encounter from anyone talking about this film.

    How one can readily and easily deny facts that paint such a clear picture is beyond me. It’s easy to believe the canonized narrative when you haven’t been exposed to the counter narrative being presented in the film, but the evidence stacks up so convincingly that the unpleasant feeling of the cognitive dissonance the facts evinced in this reviewer is the clear and only reason why the reviewer had such a poor response to the film.

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