FOR THOSE OF US whose onset of adolescence dovetailed with the launch of the grunge era, a documentary like Hit So Hard feels like personal history. Cobbled together from Hi8 footage Hole drummer Patty Schemel took during the band's most tumultuous and watchable years (roughly '94-'98), along with interviews with former band members and musician colleagues, it's the familiar tale of the rise and fall of King Kurt and Queen Courtney's House of Grunge—but told from the perspective of someone wholly enmeshed in the scene, yet relatively backgrounded by the public.
One generation asks each other where they were when they heard of Kennedy's assassination. Another poses the same question about Kurt Cobain's drug-riddled suicide—and if you have an answer to that, you're probably aware of the overdose death of Hole bass player Kristen Pfaff just two months later. Schemel was also struggling with addiction—far more so than Pfaff—but rather than burn out like her friends, she sunk lower, spurred on by having been replaced with a studio drummer on Celebrity Skin (the opening notes of that album's first single directly corresponded to my complete loss of interest in the band). Eventually kicked out of Hole altogether, Schemel lived on the streets, hit bottom, got clean, and finally decided to dust off her old box of home movies to make a documentary.
Beyond being close to some of the 20th century's most compelling icons, Hard does a good job pointing out how crucial Schemel's role was, keeping time with a bare foot while Courtney Love earned her notoriety as an unpredictable, drunken, and/or violent performer. A host of female drummers appear onscreen to hail Schemel as both a musician and openly gay celebrity, and plenty of the footage evidences her as a likeable goofball. Even if, as in life, Kurt and Courtney's scenes often steal Schemel's (watch them practice a never-released duet song in their pajamas, anyone?), Hit So Hard a riveting archive worthy of addition to your grunge scrapbook.