When she was 11, Patty Schemel started playing the drums; by the time she was 12, she’d discovered drinking. These two elements would come to dominate her adult life. The first would lead to her playing in Courtney Love’s band, Hole, in the early ’90s and becoming a bona fide, arena-playing rock star. The second would give birth to a substance-abuse problem that landed her on the streets, doing unspeakable things for crack cash. After hitting rock bottom, Schemel got sober and opened up her own dog-care business; she’s now married with a child and occasionally hits the skins for charity events.
P. David Ebersole’s documentary focuses primarily on Schemel’s rise, fall and return, though it doesn’t connect the dots coherently enough to qualify as a comprehensive portrait. (Just as the group’s ascension into the stratosphere begins, Ebersole suddenly dives into Schemel’s homosexuality—a shift that kills the film’s narrative momentum and turns this formative part of her identity into a mere digression.) The film’s real currency lies in its proximity to a key alt-cultural moment: First-person tales of backstage backstabbing and Schemel’s home movies of Love and Kurt Cobain offer an intimate view of grunge-era rock. But even the insider’s perspective and generous dollops of the Hole truth aren’t handled properly; you can feel Ebersole straining to meld the drummer’s personal story to a bigger picture regarding a shift in the zeitgeist and failing miserably. Schemel is a major rock & roll survivor; Hit So Hard is a minor rockumentary at best, as well as a seriously missed opportunity.
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