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Originally published Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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Movie review

'Hit So Hard' — the torturous tale of Courtney Love's ex-drummer

"Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death of Patty Schemel" is a documentary directed by P. David Ebersole that tells the story of Courtney Love's drummer in the band Hole. It is a grunge-era tale of drugs and alcohol with a happy, sober ending. The film is playing at the Northwest Film Forum.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death of Patty Schemel,' a documentary directed by P. David Ebersole. 103 minutes. Not rated; contains coarse language, some nudity and drug abuse. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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The documentary "Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death of Patty Schemel" is the torturous tale of a remarkable survivor of the grunge era — the troubled but talented drummer for Courtney Love's band, Hole.

Much of the film (directed by P. David Ebersole) is based on more than 40 hours of footage Schemel captured before and during the band's 1994-1995 "Live Through This" tour, which followed the death of Love's famous husband, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. Some of the film's most tender and intimate moments are never-before- released scenes of Cobain and Love and their infant daughter, Frances Bean.

Director Ebersole also enlists Schemel's brother Larry and mother, Terry, in deciphering Schemel's difficult youth in Marysville as a confused teen who loved girls, drugs and alcohol. Schemel reveals a sharp wit, gift for storytelling and deep sense of humanity. Blessed with a natural talent for music, she took up drums at age 11. A year later, at 12, she discovered booze. In a telling interview, she describes alcohol and other drugs as her first love and admits that, given a choice between hanging out with gorgeous actress Angelina Jolie or a "bum with a crack pipe," she likely would have picked the latter.

Perhaps the most difficult segment of the story is the recording of Hole's third album, "Celebrity Skin," during which Schemel was replaced by a session drummer she derisively calls Johnny One-Take (Deen Castronovo). Michael Beinhorn (who replaces Schemel after a meeting with the band) is portrayed as a producer who is merciless with drummers, but we never hear his perspective. Feeling betrayed by Love and her fellow band members, Schemel retreats into a desperate life of drugs, alcohol and homelessness before turning things around.

Indeed, the film has a happy ending: Schemel (celebrating six years of sobriety) is married and running her own business, Dog Rocker Dog Care. She seems content and fulfilled, but above all, she is alive.

Gene Stout: gene@genestout.com

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