While we’re waiting for the official biopic about Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, Gus Van Sant’s Last Days is the closet we have. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. I heard about it when it first came out and according to Sant the story was loosely based off of Cobain and it’s pretty obvious when you watch it: blond rock star who is tired of being in a band with a kid and a drug habit. I thought that was as far as it was gonna go. But when I sat down and watched the film, I discovered it was basically ripped right from Cobain’s life just with the names replaced.
To be fair, the movie doesn’t paint the rockstar in a negative manner. Rather, it just shows what he did for his last couple of days and it’s mostly mundane: he makes his favorite food, mac and cheese, he goes out to a club, he spends most of his time avoiding his house mates, and he plays around with music for a bit. The reason I was upset with it at first was because it felt like Sant lied when he said it was only loosely based off the musician. But later, I learned it was his intent to make a Cobain biopic, but was unsure how the fans would react and he didn’t want to face Courtney Love’s wrath and lawyers.
It’s really not a bad movie, but in order to understand the movie it’s best to see some of the director’s past films to get use to his style. Often times there are scenes where nothing happens and no sound is heard. It’ll just be a shot of Blake (the rockstar) staring off in the distance with nothing else going on. It’s this type of style that make people hate his films. But if you’re patient and like films more on the artsy side, then I would recommend seeing it. Also, Michael Pitt as non-Cobain does a really good job. Not only does he resemble the late singer, he even managed to adapt some of his mannerisms very well: he walks like him, mumbles like him, and moves like him.
Really, nothing much happens in the film. There is very little dialogue and a lot of the movie is set up by shots of certain rooms and minimal scenes. Of course, the climax of the film is when Blake’s dead body is found in the garage of his house found by a worker…sounds familiar. But it’s the last scene that’s pretty haunting: while looking at Blake’s lifeless body, we see his spirit leave the body and climb up the wall. It’s quite unnerving especially since all you hear during the scene are birds chirping. What makes it even worse is that they set up the shot exactly like the infamous photo of Cobain dead on the floor with nothing but his leg in view.
If anything else, you have to admire Sant’s attention to detail. Not only did he manage to turn Pitt into Cobain not only with his mannerisms, but by the way he dresses too, he also incorporates several details that any Nirvana fan will notice. Blake has several animals in the house just like Cobain did early on. Also, the green house or garage where they eventually find Blake looks exactly like the one in Cobain’s house. It even had the stool that caused so many questions during the autopsy.
If you have the time and are curious about it, check out the movie. Though it’s not supposed to be accurate about Cobain’s final hours, it’s still interesting to see,especially if you’re a Nirvana fan. While it is interesting, you have to be patient since nothing much happens in the film and there isn’t even a lot of dialogue. If you want a Gus Van Sant movie to prepare you for this one, I recommend Elephant which is somewhat based on the Columbine massacre.