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article imageReview: ‘Hit So Hard’ pulls no punches Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 23, 2012 in Entertainment
‘Hit So Hard’ is an unadulterated portrait of the “life and near death” of Patty Schemel, drummer for ‘90s music group Hole.
Hole was one of the biggest rock bands of the early ‘90s. In a sea of all-male grunge acts, it represented a focus for the female outcast. The lyrics were dark and reinforced a feminism of assertiveness. The rest of the band was pushed shadows as Courtney Love, and her relationship with Kurt Cobain, occupied the spotlight. But there was another equally important member of the band whose story is finally told in Hit So Hard – drummer Patty Schemel.
Growing up in a small town outside of Seattle, Schemel knew she was different from the other kids. She was very close to her brother, forming an early, amateur version of The White Stripes, before moving to the city. It was then that she joined Hole, and became very close to Cobain and Love. Schemel never dreamed she’d play on a multi-platinum album or be on the cover Rolling Stone magazine, but within a year it was all happening. She also never imagined she could lose it all, but that happened too.
The documentary benefits from years of home videos shot by Schemel, recording the good times and bad; and moments of clarity and incoherence. Viewers watch as the lively young woman with a great sense of humour becomes lost in drug-induced confusion. This personal library also features private moments of Cobain with Love and their daughter Francis Bean, in which it’s hard to believe he was edging towards committing suicide. Though it feels as if many of these scenes are included because they’re a side of Cobain so rarely seen, the focus appropriately never strays far from Schemel.
The story is told by editing together interviews with Schemel at various stages of her sobriety over four years. But the candour with which she talks about fame, death, addiction and eventually hitting rock bottom doesn’t change over time. She understandably struggles when recalling certain experiences but never seems reluctant to talk about anything, from the first woman she loved to becoming a prostitute to pay for drugs.
The interviews with other prominent female drummers, including Gina Schock of The Go-Go’s, Debbi Peterson of The Bangles and Kate Schellenbach of The Beastie Boys and Luscious Jackson, provide insight into the industry and the significance of women in a primarily male role. In addition, conversations with Love, Eric Erlandson and Melissa Auf der Maur of Hole provide additional perspectives on Schemel’s experiences and life within the band.
However, the pull quotes that consume the screen every few minutes are quite distracting. It would be preferred if they were eliminated or more intermittent, allowing the audience to zero in on significant statements because they are important and not because they’re told to.
The Canadian premiere of Hit So Hard screens Mar. 23 at 9 p.m. at the NFB Cinema (150 John Street, Toronto, ON) as part of the Slacker Canadian Music Week Film Festival.
Director: P. David Ebersole
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