Directed by P. David Ebersole
Among the many accreditations that Courtney Love and her rock band Hole have garnered, the one she’s most proud of is the recognition for having a female drummer – a lesbian drummer, to be pedantic. A rarity in the music industry heretofore, Patty Schemel is a no nonsense drummer who, despite her gender, has weathered the ethereal highs and chthonic lows of being a rock star.
In P. David Ebersole’s documentary, Hit So Hard, we follow the life of Schemel, from her turbulent upbringing in a parochial small town, to her crucial role in shaping grunge music, her eventual fall from grace, and her cesspool existence of drugs, alcohol, and misfortune.
For long stretches of the beginning, the film, which is purportedly about Schemel, has an identity crisis. While discussing her experiences with Hole, Schemel will go on lengthy tangents about other music artists, in particular, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.
Although this gives an idea of the bond and relationship that surely existed between Schemel and her fellow collaborators, these sequences go on for far too long and serve as nothing more than to aggrandize her peers. Although somewhat touching, it pulls focus away from Schemel herself, which, as a result, takes away from the film.
However, the film does pull back into focus after a certain point, around the time Schemel leaves the band. From there, Hit So Hard finally, and definitively, becomes her story. Because Schemel is so eccentric, yet so easygoing and likeable, her role as an anecdotalist is elevated to that of a raconteur, and, couple this with the harrowing real-life accounts of her epoch in destitute, the final stretch of the film is spellbinding.
Although the film initially struggles to find its objet d’art, it eventually concentrates on Schemel’s inherently engrossing story. With amazingly detailed file footage of Schemel’s personal and professional life, and a strangely hallucinogenic aesthetic, Hit So Hard is a powerful and personal documentary about a woman who’s unquestionably likewise.
– Justin Li
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