Hole drummer Patty Schemel survived stardom, addiction, homelessness, and Courtney Love. The hit-fest doc ‘Hit So Hard’ takes you up the stairway to heaven and down the elevator to hell
by Steven Foster
Courtney Love was once noted for fronting one of the most dangerous bands of the ’90s, more than her current acidic meltdowns, designer muse detours, promising acting forays, and embarrassingly public disputes with everyone from Dave Grohl to her own daughter. Love’s band Hole (whose name is as well-calculated as the vomitous anger-fueled slasher hooks were heroin-catchy) arrived like a fist to the face. The unsung hero of Hole’s sound and success was drummer Patty Schemel, who is now getting her mainstream due with the documentary Hit So Hard: The Life & Near Death Story of Drummer Patty Schemel (Well Go USA Entertainment).
Part drug-danger tale, part backstage rock opera, Hit So Hard is surprisingly gentle with intimate sequences of interviews, personal video, and archival footage featuring Hole members (living and dead), Cobain and daughter Frances Bean, feminist rock icons, and vital gay luminaries of grunge. The subject may be Schemel—a brilliant musician nearly destroyed by drugs—but the film has a wider focus, encompassing a pivotal musical movement.
The doc is as ragged and patterned as the flannel shirts of the grunge uniform (linked straight to its lesbian fashion origin by pioneering genderbender Phranc). To the filmmakers’ credit, we’re spared the harrowing Go Ask Alice moralizing—partly because Schemel herself is so frank about her survival. Schemel’s talent, sexuality, and admitted hand in her own descent all play humbly, and are uncannily sunny in the telling (she’s a funny, charming interview). Her levity gives the film a perfect gravity. Graceful and gutsy, Hit is a hit.
Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.