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Apr 13, 2012Hit So Hard explores the former Hole drummer's career and struggles with addiction, set partially against the backdrop of the rise and fall of the Seattle grunge scene. Director P. David Ebersole combines interviews with Schemel filmed over a period of several years with archival footage, much of it shot by the drummer herself. Ebersole also features extensive interviews with Schemel'sHit So Hard explores the former Hole drummer's career and struggles with addiction, set partially against the backdrop of the rise and fall of the Seattle grunge scene. Director P. David Ebersole combines interviews with Schemel filmed over a period of several years with archival footage, much of it shot by the drummer herself. Ebersole also features extensive interviews with Schemel's former Hole bandmates Courtney Love (lead singer/guitarist), Melissa Auf der Maur (bassist), and Eric Erlandson (guitarist). The entertaining interview segments with the notoriously unpredictable Love show her at various points talking with her mouth full, sitting with her legs splayed over the arms of the chair she's in, and generally just coming across as a train wreck. These portions scream out for Love to get her own feature-length documentary treatment. Devout Hole fans will likely find much to enjoy in the wealth of behind-the-scenes footage of the band, most of which has never been seen before. For the rest of us, however, it isn't terribly revealing, offering up the standard music visual document of mundane life in the recording studio and on the road in a variety of bus, backstage, and hotel room settings (there's also some decent live footage). One of the subjects Schemel's video camera captured is Kurt Cobain; she stayed at the residence he and Love shared for an extended period, and we see the Nirvana frontman in some private moments with his newborn daughter, as well as singing and playing an acoustic guitar during a brief snippet. These scenes aren't particularly interesting and will only hold some value for Nirvana disciples. Schemel joined Hole in 1992 and spent six years with the group, playing only on their lauded Live Through This album. The sections discussing the difficult recording sessions for its followup, Celebrity Skin, are some of the film's most interesting, as we find out that all of Schemel's parts were replaced by a studio drummer (although she is credited in the album's liner notes). Despite battling a drug addiction at the time, Schemel maintains her playing was fine and that producer Michael Beinhorn played head games with her, ultimately turning the rest of the band against her (Beinhorn has a history of difficulties working with drummers). After quitting the band, Schemel descended further into drug addiction, unable to heed the cautionary tales of friends Cobain and original Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff (who fatally overdosed a couple of months after Cobain's suicide). By the end of the 90s, Schemel's heroin, crystal meth, and crack habits had left her homeless and turning tricks for drug money. I found it interesting that whether by choice or not, Ebersole's film doesn't include any interviews with either of the surviving members of Nirvana, nor anyone from the other two biggest 90s Seattle bands, Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. A small collection of other 90s alt-rock contemporaries are interviewed, including Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon, Luscious Jackson's Kate Schellenbach, and Roddy Bottum from Faith No More and Imperial Teen. Ebersole also expands the doc's focal point to probe the role of women drummers in rock history, although the fact that two of the principals interviewed are the drummers from The Go-Go's and The Bangles doesn't add much musical credibility to the discussion, quite frankly. In my eyes, a glaringly obvious omission to any discussion of women in rock, particularly because they're actually from Seattle, are Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson. Through Schemel's own experience as a lesbian in the music industry, Ebersole also briefly explores the history of gay women in rock and the adversity they've faced. The documentary's biggest negative is that it fails to present a fully-formed picture of the drummer's post-Hole life. Schemel recounts calling Love for financial help while homeless, but there's no sense or indication from the interviews with Love, Erlandson, or Auf der Maur of whether or not any of them currently have a relationship with her and it would have been nice if Ebersole had defined this crucial element. Also, as he tells it, Schemel essentially abandoned any serious pursuits in the music industry after getting her life straightened out, but the director fails to mention her work with Juliette And The Licks, Imperial Teen, and two further collaborations with Love. Schemel's story should make for a more compelling viewing experience than Hit So Hard delivers. The highly likeable musician's colourful and harrowing tale make her a primo documentary subject, but the film's incompleteness undermines the end result.… Collapse
Schemel's life story contains many interesting pieces - growing up as a lesbian in a conservative rural town, battling a lifetime of drug addiction, spending years in proximity to Love - but Hit So Hard often finds her as an extra in her own film.
An absorbing, educational, sad, humorous and ultimately uplifting film that is easily accessible and entertaining even for those not familiar with the grunge rock scene, or with the considerable role that Schemel played in that milieu.