Soaked in Bleach (Documentary) – Review

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Directed by: Benjamin Statler
Metacritic Score: 50
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 30%
IMDb Score: 7.6

Not Rated

True crime documentaries seem like there not as special as they once were, especially since there are whole channels that give you 24/7 true crime stories to sink your teeth into.

For a case to be put into a film, there would have be something different and special about the case. Enter Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Nirvana who, according to Seattle P.D. records, committed suicide in April of that year.

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Wiz, they have already made films about Cobain and his death in the past 20 years…four of them in fact!”

And you would be absolutely right.

This documentary tells the story of the investigation on Kurt Cobain’s death, from the prospective of Private Investigator Tom Grant who was hired by Courtney Love to find her husband 7 days before his body was found.

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So, what makes this different than, say, Kurt and Courtney from Nick Bloomfield? Aside from new information that is readily available online from all sorts of different places (seriously, just google “Death of Kurt Cobain,” I just saved you two hours. You are welcome), the film does it’s best Errol Morris impression by re-enacting the investigation while using audio that was recorded by Grant.

In theory this would make an intriguing watch just to hear the audio, but when it’s put in practice it comes off as something found on Channel iD…only prettier. 

The film has one clear agenda that it keeps hammering home with the subtlety of Fox News: Courtney Love did it.

Some of the best crime documentaries, like The Thin Blue Line, Paradise Lost and Capturing the Friedmans, just presents the evidence in a clear and distinguished way and lets the viewer decide what they believe. Soaked in Bleach does none of that, clearly telling you one side of a story and jamming so much of it’s own belief into it that it’s hard to really see whether the film is only telling partial truths or not.

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Where this becomes questionable lies in it’s most touted difference: the audio recordings. At first, the audio recordings are interesting to listen to, especially when it comes to listening to Courtney Love and when she originally hired the P.I.

Then, something goes missing: namely, the promised audio. In random parts of the film, the real audio is swapped out or cut to allow actors to play the roles of the people in the audiotapes.

The result leaves more questions than revelations. For example, why are some parts of the audio completely cut in what seems like innocuous banter? What parts of the acted sections are completely dramatized or trumped up?

The answer is simple: You don’t know because you can’t hear what was cut. This becomes particularly troubling when it comes to key scenes in the film being either completely dramatized or switched between real audio and dramatization: it’s a puzzling decision that makes those juicy audio bits feel counterfeit.

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So, what’s left? Incredibly stiff, boring and bad dramatizations that made me wonder when Robert Stack was going to show up in a trench coat. Seriously, the woman who plays Courtney Love is a laugh riot: never has a character been played so obviously shifty and destitute.

The dramatizations are so bad it’s actually kind of insulting to watch. They give this feel of manipulation of truths that can be shaken out.

Now, some of you will say (and rightfully so) that a lot of what the film shows is true, such as what the Seattle P.D. did during the investigation.

Soaked in Bleach does something that is rare in making a true crime story: it makes you want to question what is obvious because of how much the film plays with the facts. Even when you have actual evidence on screen along with documented and highly skilled testimony, there was still this doubt in the back of my head.

It sure is a decent looking film though. The cinematography and direction are passable: they shoot the scenes in decent light and at least make the interview segments look better than most documentaries.

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But, seriously, there are better documentaries (and better crime documentaries) out there. If you’ve seen Kurt and Courtney and you just want to see the new evidence, look it up online and find something better to watch.

Unless, of course, you miss the days of A Current Affair.

1/5 – Looks decent, but shoots itself in the foot by playing fast and loose with its own features.

The Wiz Says #45

 

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