(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reverend's Reviews: Hole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Love her or hate her, Courtney Love certainly did spice up the music scene back in the 1990's with her almost all-female band, Hole. Love's onstage shenanigans tended to get more attention than the group's songs but Hole's drummer, Patty Schemel, garnered nearly universal praise from critics and audiences.

Schemel herself became known for more than just her music when she came out as a lesbian in a 1995 Rolling Stone interview. The new documentary Hit So Hard, subtitled The Life and Near-Death Story of Drummer Patty Schemel, opens today in Los Angeles. Focusing on a turbulent time not only in Schemel's journey but in the evolution of popular music, P. David Ebersole's film functions on several levels: as biography; celebrity expose; concert movie; a GLBT coming-of-age saga; and a requiem for both Love's late husband, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, and former Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff. Cobain and Pfaff both died tragically in their 20's from drug overdoses.

Schemel speaks candidly about her struggle not only with her sexuality but with addiction. She had her first drink of alcohol when she was 12 and eventually worked her way to crystal meth and heroin. Schemel finally entered a rehab program and is happy and healthy today. One of Schemel's role models, the out lesbian singer Phranc, appears in the film and makes the not-irrational argument that the "grunge" style Cobain & Co. made popular evolved from lesbian fashion styles of the 1970's.

Hit So Hard also reveals the gay men behind Hole's success, Joe Mama-Nitzberg and Roddy Bottum. They were and remain two of Schemel's closest allies, and they provide valuable insight into Cobain's suicide as well as the challenges presented by being gay in the predominantly straight world of rock 'n roll. If all this wasn't gay energy enough, director/editor/writer Ebersole (Death in Venice, CA) is gay too or, as he puts it in the press notes, "proud to be a lesbian filmmaker."

This is a well-constructed, enlightening documentary about a challenging period in music and society at large. Whether you are a Hole or Nirvana fan or not, check it out.

Reverend's Rating: B+

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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