Case Number 23966: Small Claims Court


Well Go Usa // 2011 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 12th, 2012

The Charge

He hit so hard
I saw stars
He hit so hard
I saw God

-- Hole, "Hit so Hard"

The Case

Patty Schemel was part of the lineup of Hole during their Live Through This heyday. It was a dark time when the band had to deal with the death of Kurt Cobain, who was their lead singer's husband, as well as the group's bassist, Kristen Pfaf. Yet somehow Hole went on a national tour during which, on any given night, nothing was off limits as they performed live onstage with all of them at a breaking point and strung out on narcotics. Patty took a ton of home movies during this tumultuous era, and basically they become the foundation for this documentary, which tells her harrowing life story. It's interesting to see Hole through the eyes of someone other than the narcissistic leader, Courtney Love, and Patty has a great story that involves going from the top of the alternative rock heap down to a homeless life in Los Angeles. It's a surprisingly moving documentary that offers a very dark ride that in the end shows you redemption and grace. This is an exciting release that defines the grunge movement in a way very few films can. And it is amazing that it does this from the perspective of a lesbian drummer who spent six years looking at the back of Courtney Love's head as she screamed and cried her way around the world.

For fans of Hole, Hit So Hard is a treasure trove of inside information of what it was like to be a part of the band at a time when grunge ruled the world even while the scene was imploding. Patty Schemel is interviewed in several sessions over a four-year period, but also included are chunks of single-session sit downs with Courtney Love, Melissa Auf Der Mar, and Eric Erlandson. Other musicians such as Faith No More's Roddy Bottum, Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon, and female drummers of note all make appearances in between the Hi8 home movie footage. Schemel lived with Kurt and Courtney right after the birth of their daughter, so she has some very private, heartbreaking footage of the family right before Kurt's untimely death. Yet throughout the film, director P. David Ebersole makes sure the focus stays on his drummer and her story. Patty Schemel gets to tell her side of being a lesbian rock god, and also discusses the lows of being replaced on a recording by another drummer along with her descent into drugged-out rock bottom. She has been to hell and back, and you can easily tell by the way she speaks, with a world-weary rasp that reveals a hard life to get here.

The Blu-ray transfer is fine, but honestly much of this is grainy footage that was shot with a handheld video camera often operated by someone on drugs. Junkies ramble, people stare off vacantly, and nothing seems to ever be shot with a steady hand or even focus. The visual quality is never high, and even the audio suffers from poor recording conditions, often distorted and hard to discern. Interview segments and official video footage look better, of course, and those bits are easier to watch. Extras include a nice in-depth commentary with Patty and the director, over an hour of the raw footage from her home movies, and then some featurettes. We get to see the reunion of the Hole lineup at the Museum of Modern Art when they screened this film as well as vintage footage of a young fan being taught to play "Miss World" by Courtney Love live onstage.

The disappointing part of all of this is there is not too much of the Kurt Cobain footage, so Nirvana faithful won't be overly excited, outside of the five or ten minutes he shows up. Also it seems for fans of the subject material there is never an entire song performed by Hole, and the glimpses of them in concert feel all too brief, other than the unusual antics of Courtney while Patty and the rest of the band roll their eyes. I almost wish the extras would have included some of the music videos or more extended concert footage to make this a more complete package. Sure the story is the focus, but the music is what made us all come inside.

I am a huge Hole fan who owns every release they ever issued. I worked for an alternative rock radio station back in the '90s, and I got to see all of these people live on stage several times. Sometimes I even got to chat with them in a studio. This film really hit me where it counts, and made me think long and hard. What fascinated me the most was the idea that here is Patty Schemel, who was part of a multi-platinum selling band, and somehow she ended up homeless and on the streets of Los Angeles hanging out with crack dealers and prostitutes. How could this happen? To its credit, Hit So Hard doesn't wallow in the misery for long, instead showing how she pulled through all of it. But it reveals that Hole was playing with death, and it's amazing that any of them lived to tell the tale. This is a great release for anybody who wondered what grunge was really all about, but mostly it's for Hole fans who need to know where it all led.

The Verdict

Guilty of showing the dark side of being a female grunge goddess.

Review content copyright © 2012 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: Well Go Usa
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Home Movies
* Featurettes

* IMDb