Published Aug 01, 2005It's hard not to be ambivalent about Last Days, a film that morbidly teeters on the line of fact and fiction. As the final instalment in Van Sant's "news item" trilogy (preceded by Elephant and Gerry), Last Days speculates on the final hours of Kurt Cobain's life. Or, rather, the life of "a brilliant, but troubled, musician named Blake."
In this "loosely based" character study, Blake (Michael Pitt) stumbles through the woods in a heroin stupor while wearing Cobain's most iconic outfits, avoids calls from his band-mates, gets counselled by his friends (surprise, it's Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon), and - stop me if you've heard this one - shoots himself in the face in his greenhouse. The aftermath even matches, detail-for-detail, the infamous police photos from April '94.
Barring some awkward, cloying takes on Nirvana lore, Last Days is surprisingly well-handled. Drug use is only ever implied and the winning gunshot is neither seen nor heard. The pace is slow and hypnotic. Even when you're made to watch Blake pour himself some Cocoa Krispies or watch an entire Boyz II Men video (he nods off to "On Bended Knee," for reals), it's somehow never boring and always with the purpose of showcasing despair. Michael Pitt, as Blake, not only pulls off the blond-haired, tortured, pretty boy look, but is strangely impressive in the role, even though he barely utters a single organised sentence. It's his silence that makes it all the more climactic when he finally busts into song.
While it may not have been necessary to heap this onto the Nirvana pile, it's only a matter of time before a slimy biopic comes out that embraces the clichés Last Days was careful enough to avoid. If Van Sant is helping beat a dead horse, at least he's doing it with a slightly more well-intentioned golf club. (Alliance Atlantis)