THE MOST OFT-REPEATED claim by director Brett Morgen concerning his documentary Cobain: Montage of Heck is that he made the film for Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of the late Nirvana frontman, so she could have two hours with the father she never got a chance to know.
If that were Morgen's sole intention, he should be praised. The videotaped footage of Kurt Cobain and his baby daughter is charming and heartbreaking. He was clearly a devoted and goofy father, even as he struggled with depression and addiction. The director also does an incredible job wending together B-roll footage of music video shoots and live performances, as well some beautiful animated sequences using the audio from self-made cassettes that Cobain left behind, as a kind of alternate angle look at his rise from underground artist to multi-platinum-selling rock star.
What Morgen didn't need is the copious talking head interviews with Cobain's family, an ex-girlfriend, and an agitated, chain-smoking Courtney Love, all of whom claim to have some sense of the turmoil in Cobain's mind. What we get instead is the kind of 20/20 hindsight—like his mother's ridiculous statement that upon hearing Nevermind for the first time, she told her son that his life was going to change immeasurably—and tortured artist bullshit that biographers have been feeding Nirvana fans for two decades. Only Cobain's bandmate Krist Novoselic comes off as levelheaded and honest in his discussion of the circus of fame and his friend's legitimate mental anguish.
"I felt a tremendous responsibility to Frances and to the fans and to the public to get Kurt's story right," Morgen told Paper magazine earlier this year. It's a shame he didn't feel the same obligation to the film's subject.