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Courtney Love may be the undisputed Grunge-era poster girl for drug-fuelled excess, but she isn’t the only person to have barely made it out of Hole alive.
The band’s red-headed, openly gay drummer, Patty Schemel, came dangerously close to following in the tragic footsteps of Hole’s original bassist Kristen Pfaff—not to mention Love’s husband Kurt Cobain—and her personal story is candidly shared in the intimate documentary, Hit So Hard.
Built around over 40 hours of never-before-seen home movie footage taken by Schemel around the time of the band’s acclaimed 1994-95 Live Through This world tour, P. David Ebersole’s film has an inescapable Behind the Music feel, but Schemel’s engaging presence (and her souvenir videotapes) make it quite watchable.
Originally shot in Hi-8, that material, which also includes some tender family footage of Cobain, Love and their then infant daughter Frances Bean, establishes a real sense of place and time for the Seattle alt-rock movement, which hit its stride—gasp—20 years ago with the smash success of Nirvana’s Nevermind album.
Schemel, whose rhythmically raw style caught the Nirvana front man’s attention (she was at one point considered as the potential new drummer for the band before Cobain ultimately went with Dave Grohl), possesses the calmly reflective, non-accusatory voice of someone’s who has dealt with her demons and has been able to move on with her life.
Her often colorful recollections are supplemented with some equally astute commentary from her old band mates, Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf der Maur and an especially lively Love-Cobain as well as a line-up of veteran female rockers, including Veruca Salt founder Nina Gordon, and drummers Gina Schock (The Go-Go’s), Debbi Peterson (The Bangles) and Kate Schellenbach (The Beastie Boys).
Those girl drummers are also given their due during the film’s closing credit sequence, which also pays tribute to the likes of Sheila E., Karen Carpenter and Melody, the decidedly animated drummer for Josie and the Pussycats.
Cast: Patty Schemel, Melissa Auf der Maur, Eric Erlandson, Courtney Love Cobain
Director: P. David Ebersole
Screenwriters: P. David Ebersole & Todd Hughes
Producers: Todd Hughes, Christina Soletti
Photography: Larra Anderson, Mark Putnam, John Tanzer
Music: Roddy Bottum
Editor: P. David Ebersole
Not rated, 103 minutes.
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