Why 'Montage of Heck' Falls Short For True Nirvana Fans
If you're a true Kurt Cobain fan, you're always looking for the reasons why.
Over the years, we've certainly had our fair share of things to pull from: Kurt's published journals, unauthorized documentaries (including 1998's "Kurt & Courtney," which basically suggests Courtney killed him), countless interviews and even more conspiracy theories.
We have to believe he killed himself because the thought of him getting murdered makes us unspeakably angry; we have to believe it was the heroin because Kurt's penned diary entries describing his love for his daughter suggests he was in it for the long haul.
So, it seems "Montage of Heck," the first Cobain-family-authorized account of Kurt's life, set out with the intentions to finally provide some concrete answers.
In an exclusive, first-ever interview about her father, 22-year-old Frances Bean Cobain told Rolling Stone:
"For me, the film provided a lot more factual information about my father – not just tall tales that were misconstrued, misremembered, rehashed, retold 10 different ways."
Additionally, the film's writer and director, Brett Morgen, has been basking in praise over his work.
Every positive review is retweeted on his Twitter account, and music publications are hailing the rock-doc as a success.
But, for a Nirvana fan who has already spent countless hours scouring YouTube, watching Courtney's interviews from the 90s or catching clips of "The Last 48 Hours of Kurt Cobain," not much new information was revealed.
Kurt's parents divorced when he was 9, and he was shuffled from family member to family member, causing feelings of rejection and angst. All of this is public knowledge.
In "Kurt & Courtney," it's revealed he was even shuffled to neighbors' homes and friends of friends' houses, which was not discussed in "MoH."
In the 1998 doc, we also hear from Tracy Marander, Kurt's first — and, presumably, only — love before meeting Courtney.
Marander is also interviewed in "Montage of Heck," providing the same information.
Both documentaries asked Marander if she felt like a mother to Kurt, and both times she responds along the lines of, "Sort of."
"Montage of Heck" does, however, provide fans with the first interview of Kurt's mother, Wendy O'Connor.
She discusses a time when Kurt was home visiting and she could tell he was strung out on heroin, as if her repeating it somehow makes it more true.
In VH1's "Behind the Music: Courtney Love,"which aired in 2010, Courtney tells interviewers Kurt's family was well aware of his drug use.
She recalls a time he became unconscious and she began her usual routine of slapping him awake in front of his mother and sister.
"Montage of Heck's" interview with Wendy provides the same effect as Courtney's; they are simply tales told by those closest to him, stories we've heard before.
While it is refreshing to hear Kurt's mother say things like, "Kurt was born for a reason," the interviews consistently fall flat with any new information.
Even the diary entries, which Morgen animated and brought to life throughout the film, have been previously published in the book, "Journals."
All you have to do is type "Kurt Cobain home video rare" into YouTube, and the same home videos used in the film can easily be found.
These videos were uploaded to various accounts years before the "Montage of Heck" release.
Although Courtney Love and Frances Cobain have praised the film, others who were close to Kurt have publicized their disapproval. Alice Wheeler, photographer and close friend to Kurt had this to say about the film:
"['Montage of Heck' producers] have had more access and resources than anyone else making a film on this subject and yet the final product is, in my opinion, both confusing and disappointing. "Sadly, this movie continues to uphold the old myths about Kurt’s life that were, in my opinion, originally invented to help make Courtney appear more sympathetic after the Vanity Fair article revealed that she was shooting heroin while pregnant. "I believe this movie is from Courtney’s point of view and is not very reflective of the person I remember Kurt to be."
Other Nirvana-based documentaries have long discussed the infamous Vanity Fair article that inevitably caused Kurt and Courtney to lose brief custody of their newborn daughter.
Kurt publicly threatened Vanity Fair interviewer Lynn Hirschberg, who first suggested Courtney used heroin while pregnant.
"Montage of Heck" repeats this well-known information, and Courtney admits she did use early in the pregnancy.
However, one new piece of information Courtney revealed in "MoH" was a reason Kurt may have committed suicide.
She claims he thought she was cheating on him, which is the first time this theory was spoken of.
In Courtney's 1995 Barbara Walters interview, she claims that near the time of his suicide, Kurt was feeling low after she berated him for dropping young Frances.
She blames herself for being so harsh on him and convinces viewers into believing this is what drove him over the edge.
The inclusion of Courtney in Morgen's film brings out another tired debate Nirvana fans play over again in their heads: Is Courtney evil, after all? One thing is for sure: Kurt didn't seem to think so.
The problem is, "Montage of Heck" was set up for extreme success by being the first authorized account of late Cobain's life.
The drama of an eight-year-long project enticed the media, and fans were eager to watch the film after hearing Frances Bean Cobain signed on as a producer.
The film does do a fantastic job of telling Cobain's story by bringing old interviews, recordings and artwork to the forefront and giving journal entries life. It provides a beautiful and visually-stimulating storyboard of the hero so many generations have idolized.
But, that's about it.
For fans who have long dug up their own clues as to what really happened to Kurt, nothing new was revealed. But, it does give us one more thing to cling on to, and for that, we are grateful.