Hit So Hard
Drummers, though the beats they keep are often integral to the band’s performance, are generally overshadowed by front men/women. Certainly, Courtney Love is a fierce attention magnet, and, as a fellow musician asserts in "Hit So Hard", Hole became the Courtney Love Show at some point.
Still, Patty Schemel, the subject of P. David Ebersole’s documentary, took in her share of the gritty rock and roll limelight. The film largely deals with the rampant drug use and ramifications that fueled the manic, destructive energy that surrounded the seminal 90’s rock band that was, as Love suggests, like Nirvana for women, gay men, and a select group of evolved hetero men; but it also shows the splendor in the guts and glory of rock stardom and musicianship.
Patty’s ongoing battle with a multitude of substance addictions rightfully occupies a lot of screen time (one can echo emphatically bandmate Eric Erlandson’s observation that she is a survivor). It avoids becoming annoyingly redundant for viewers interested in the social life of the band because it is tied in to other events or bits of character. However, if one’s interest is nominal, one might roll one’s eyes at yet another tale of taking the dark path towards drug-induced self-destruction.
As many know, within months of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, heavy drug use claimed the life of Hole bassist, Kristen Pfaff. This was a sobering double whammy of tragedy for Patty and others in the scene. Besides being a song title from a post-heyday album, the title "Hit So Hard" works well because it both summarizes Patty’s simple philosophy for mastery of her instrument (attack! attack!) and underscores the onslaught of traumas that struck the band.
For Courtney Love fans or avid detractors, the film offers great interview snippets capturing Love in her revolting glory of impetuous arrogance and unabashed bad manners (who else can get away with ceaseless, grotesque food chewing while being interviewed?). She both extols Patty’s gift to the band and unapologetically explains her decision to concur to the crass producer’s decision to cut Patty from the Celebrity Skin recording sessions -- a decision that so incensed Patty that she left the band and descended into a new depth of drug abuse that left her homeless, only emerging from her isolation to ask for money wires from Love (who, with seemingly outrageous insensitivity laughs at Patty’s homelessness, then praises her for enduring it with a sense of humor).
Though the emphasis is on the hard-to-fathom chaos of the band, Patty’s lesbianism is also considered. There is a brief mention given to her coming out on the pages of Rolling Stone, but mostly this is a personal issue discussed as separate from the band. For example, her mother is interviewed telling of her teenage daughter’s traumatic coming out after she came onto a straight classmate on a school trip to Vancouver, spurring a shrill shunning by the group of small town girls.
Sexuality also has a slight presence in the host of interviews of other relevant musicians (Roddy Bottum of "Faith No More" is gay), but mostly figures like Veruca Salt’s Nina Gordon testify to Patty’s strength and to the insanity of it all.
The lo-fi, simple style with minor experimentation interspersed is fitting to the material, and the home video footage is priceless to fans, while Patty is a lovely subject in that she is both simple enough to be relatable but also remarkable in her stamina and ability to take control of a treacherous life.