P. David Ebersole’s documentary Hit So Hard tells the story of former Hole drummer Patty Schemel’s rise from working class kid in Marysville, Washington to drummer for one of the biggest grunge bands of the nineties.
While most viewers can be forgiven for not knowing Patty Schemel due to the larger than life persona of Hole’s front-woman, Courtney Love, as the film says, “take a look at the band Hole and you see Courtney Love… but take a listen and you’ll know who’s really in charge.”
Arguably because of its low budget, the film has a student-like feel to its production, although most technical faults are forgotten when viewers get the chance to see the never before seen tour footage that was shot by Schemel on Hi-8 while in the band.
Some of the more touching scenes include shots of Kurt Cobain playing with his daughter, Frances Bean while others give viewers a troubling peek into the drug ravaged lifestyles of musicians in the nineties.
Interviews with fellow band members including Melissa Auf der Maur and Eric Erlandson give a unique perspective on the band’s highs and lows but most fascinating is watching the interviews with Love, in garish hair and makeup and who appears to constantly be eating while being interviewed.
Love’s appearance and controversial statements, although entertaining, come off too showbizzy next to Schemel’s more authentic tone and as a viewer I found myself wondering how someone so down to earth could spend so many years working with an ego like Love.
The film is a cautionary tale of how overnight success can lead to addiction. Unfortunately, it glosses over some of the more gory details of Schemel’s descent into addiction, prostitution and homelessness after leaving Hole and instead rushes toward too neat of a conclusion.
Ebersole seems to lack focus and far too much time is spent profiling Hole as an ensemble instead of Schemel specifically. As one of only a few openly gay female drummers, we are only given small snapshots into Schemel’s personal life but this could have been explored further.
Despite, its faults Hit So Hard is a time capsule of nineties nostalgia and ultimately it is the raw and deeply personal footage that makes this film a must-see for fans of Hole or Nirvana.
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