And just who is Patty Schemel, you may ask. Patty was the drummer for Hole during the mid-1990s. During that time she found herself surrounded by the classic rock & roll excesses of sex and drugs. She became good friends with Kurt Cobain, toured the world, played on Live Through This and came very close to not surviving the decade.
Thanks to a wealth of raw material…much of it previously unseen…first-time director P. David Ebersole would be hard-pressed to make a bad film here. In addition to Schemel’s own on-camera telling of her story (she’s utterly charming), there is the Hi8 footage the drummer shot while touring with Hole (including a brief glimpse of their show at Auckland’s Big Day Out in 1995), candid (and sometimes controversial) comments from the other members of Hole (this is Courtney Love we’re talking about, after all), insight from Patty’s brother and mother and probably of most interest, intimate home video footage of Kurt Cobain hanging out with Patty, Courtney and baby Francis Bean.
Unfortunately, the neophyte director almost does mess thing up…the narrative, such as it is…is pretty messy, but the power of the story and the raw footage overcomes any shortcomings in the directing and the editing.
In addition to losing two good friends to suicide within a matter of months (Cobain and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff), Schemel almost follows them to the grave after being unceremoniously kicked out of the sessions for Hole’s 1998 album Celebrity Skin (Love, in particular looks bad here…selling out her drummer at the demands of producer Michael Beinhorn).
It was at that point that Schemel crashed and burned, living on the streets of LA as an addict, selling herself.
Fortunately, the story has a happy ending and Patty’s indefatigable spirit ultimately triumphs.
The film also spends a fair bit of time exploring what it was like for a gay female drummer to try and make it in the rock & roll scene of the 1990s. Welcome comments are featured from The Go Go’s Gina Schock, Debbi Peterson of The Bangles and Alice de Buhr, drummer for pioneering all-girl band of the 1970s, Fanny.
There’s a lot of excellent material to distil here, and Ebersole does the best he can with it. I’m sure a more seasoned director would have had better results, but there’s still plenty to recommend.
Watch the trailer for Hit So Hard here: