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I caught this film at a gay/lesbian film festival and was blown away.
Every so often, a film comes out that is so original that you can't
help but wonder why no one has ever thought of it before. "Hard Pill"
asks this question: What would happen if a pill was invented that could
turn a gay person straight? The answer is a lot more complicated than
"Hard Pill" tell the story of Tim (played by Jonathan Slavin in an outstanding performance). Tim is openly gay but unhappy with his life. He has had bad luck with relationships and doesn't feel very hopeful that that his life will turn around. When Tim hears of a new study that can change sexual preference, he decides to get involved. Tim is convinced that being straight would be a whole lot easier. What he doesn't realize is the repercussions that this change will have on his relationships and life.
This independent film appears to have been made with a shoestring budget, which fortunately doesn't detract but actually makes things on screen seem that much more authentic; almost as if we are watching real life unfolding. Also strong is the occasional humor that helped lighten things up when the subject matter became heavy. The ending is also quite satisfying and believable, not only leading one to think about the issue of sexual orientation, but also the risks of experimental drugs in general for non medical necessities. If my friends and I are any indication, we talked about this film for several hours afterward and I was moved to write a review which I don't usually do unless I really love something (or hate something.)
Kudos to John Baumgarten for both writing and directing this thought provoking film. Hope to see a lot more from him in the future!
I started watching this movie while sitting one evening channel surfing. It caught my interest...and, at the end I said, WOW! I very seldom say WOW to a movie! There was laughter and there were tears. That is pretty rare in a movie these days. The initial premise is a pill which makes a gay guy go straight. You assume it is going to be a comedy. But, once it gets going, it is heavy. The movie brings to light how such a pill would ruin wonderful friendships and relationships. Feelings are hurt, bridges burned, and then mended again. Especially if you are an older gay person, it brings back memories from your own life. I remember thinking how I wish there was "straight" pill. As the movie shows, it is not such a good idea after all. Be sure to see it and enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If there was a pill that would change gays into straight, would you
take it? If so, what would the effects be? Those are two of the
pertinent questions in the excellent sci-fi flic Hard Pill. Tim
(Jonathan Slavin) is a sad little cubicle monkey. His personal life is
a disaster. He pines for guys he doesn't seem to have a chance with,
mostly because they are straight or straight- ish anyway. This is a
point made clear by his coworker Joey (Scotch Ellis Loring) when he
says that Tim has "a sea of fags at his disposal and he stays home with
a straight man." Nowhere is Tim's social life more depressing than when
he practically begs his straight friend Don (Mike Begovich) to let Tim
fellate him ("Can't we ever just watch a movie?" Don asks?). As Tim's
personal life is defined each of the cast is introduced with a graphic
that works as a spectrum of sexuality. It's an interesting and clever
idea to show the shades of gay and straight in each character though it
wears out its welcome a bit by the time the entire cast is introduced.
The film uses "street interviews" with various folks to introduce a new controversy involving a pill intended to provide an opportunity for homosexuals to go hetero by making a chemical change in the brain. One of the best one-liners in the film has a Christian fundamentalist making a selectively supportive comment about the drug. With Tim feeling that, "The only currency in the gay world is being attractive," he signs up for the human trials for the drug. What Tim doesn't seem to realize is that each of his friends and neighbors has problems as bad or worse than his own, they just have ways to deal. Sally (Susan Slome) covets Tim but continues an unfulfilled flirtation with a coworker. Joey throws his balls between more legs than the Harlem Globetrotters but he lacks an emotionally satisfying relationship. Don's relationship is contingent on his continuing use of antidepressants. It's to the credit of writer/director John Baumgartner that these subplots are so well developed without sacrificing the central story or adding superfluity.
When Tim begins using the pill it's not just his world that changes. Each person has a place they fill in others' lives and when one tries to change something so fundamental to their own self it goes without saying that there be effects on their relationships with others. The film's major success is in exploring these results. After a first straight screw that he apparently regrets, Tim finds himself attracted to Tanya (Jennifer Elise Cox) with results transcending the chemically dependent nature of their mutual attraction. Slavin's excellent performance makes Tim a sympathetic anti-hero. Despite Tim's consistent aversion to sensible solutions for his problems, one can't help but root for him to succeed, even if it's the result decidedly unsympathetic actions on his part.
Baumgartner's superb story offers a lot to viewers beyond just the visual story and fine performances from the cast. Musings about the effects of chemical personalities are as relevant to the real world as they are in Hard Pill speculative Los Angeles. The gradation of sexuality is a path rarely explored but it's done well here with the help of not only a graphic, but a healthy dose of remarkably non-exploitive skin. Throw in a brief yet profound argument for gay marriage and you've got yourself one hell of a movie. Enjoy.
Don't let the title fool you. HARD PILL is not one of those Showtime movies that tackles a modern morality issue at the expense of character, plot and general viewer enjoyment. Yes, the underlying story is of a young gay man who joins a medical study to test a pill to turn him straight. But the premise is really just a springboard to explore relationships and the wonderful pain and joy when human beings seek to 'connect'. A variety of characters in various stages of relationships are all forced to re-assess their tenuous links to one another when our hero agrees to go on the pill. The film is full of honest, intelligent performances with room for humor, sentiment and yes - even some social commentary. HARD PILL is a prescription for a thought-provoking and entertaining 90 minutes that went down well with me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was a free Logo offering on my Comcast On-Demand that I
happened to pick at random. What a lucky choice I made. It's hard for
me to convey concisely how this movie moved me. As another commenter
mentioned, it is a low-budget type film but that makes this even more
powerful and poignant. What is great about this film is that it pulls
no punches and lays its messages out on the line. The main character is
a plain but still attractive guy that is often at the mercy of the
vanity and cruelty of the gay world. This movie blows the lid off the
Will & Jack stereotype that all gay guys are nice, fun, and cute - the
reality for many guys like myself is not always so pleasant. The main
character constantly falls for the wrong (straight/confused) guys that
often use him intentionally or not. It is this frustration and
unhappiness that drives him to consider taking a pill that allegedly
will make him straight. The great thing about this film is that none of
the characters are portrayed as perfect - they're portrayed as human.
A gay guy who has experienced rejection and ridicule by "his own kind" must see this movie as an epiphany of sorts. Even better, someone who may have a distorted picture of what the "gay lifestyle" is should see this movie - this IS the reality for the average gay guy. We're not all depressed like this but it blows the lid off stereotypes like nothing I've ever seen. Please, please see this jewel of a movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Caught this film on cable TV by chance and, by waiting through the
first thirty minutes for something interesting to develop, enjoyed it
At first glance or upon first contemplating the underlying notion that Tim's angst was perhaps the result of some sort of malady for which there was a "cure," the unsuspecting viewer is drawn into a plot that seems thin but then becomes increasingly complex as new characters enter on the scene. What holds this together so well are clever asides in which one is clued into what's really happening or what the characters are really thinking. While that device may seem trite or forced in other films, it works well in this one.
What I liked best about this "hard pill" was how believable seemingly oddball characters could be rendered without much bitterness or conflict, yet how engaging the plot could be -- wondering all the while how things would turn out. The ending was maybe a little too predictable based on early adumbration, but fine acting from a cast of virtual unknowns carries the day.
I suppose there is no need to label these comments as containing a true "spoiler," but I need to mention that one leaves this movie with a feeling that everyone received their just deserts.
No dessert needed.
I'm very glad I watched this, because I had been somewhat leery due to the premise. I expected a low-budget alternative movie with strained, over-the-top comedy, and that's not what you get. This is a good-looking, sophisticated movie with an incredible depth of talent in the cast--virtually all of whom are people you've seen and enjoyed in other projects. The movie is not about the wild and wacky results of taking a "straight pill." It's a portrait of straight men and women seeking to connect and having their hearts broken. I felt most moved for our hero's straight friend. This movie still qualifies as a comedy due to the overall atmosphere, the dialogue, and the actors' comedy chops, but it's also a character study.
This film is both original and surprising. It sounds like a gay sci-fi
flick by it's premise, but it is not; The more you watch it the more
you are drawn into the complicated and interesting plot.
I have to say that I have enjoyed the film immensely. I watched it at home actually, and I was shocked to find it was only 90 minutes long - there is so much 'meat' in this film, it actually felt like 180 minutes! and in the best way possible. This really should have been a TV mini-series, minimum 6 x 1 hour episodes. There is so much yet to tell which was not told in the film - most probably due to luck of time; I wish there would be a 'director cut' of it.
The acting in this film is very convincing and vivid, at time very emotive and touching. The lead actor Jonathan Slavin is very good indeed and so are all the other cast; very believable and empathic characterisation by the cast; Yet another strong plus for this wonderful film.
Well done to the creator John Baumgartner who did a fine job.
If you have missed this film go and watch it. It's a must!!
The writer, John Baumgartner, had an original idea, but failed to make
it work. That a pill would change a person's sexuality. A gay man, in
his 30s, all of a sudden decides he's tired of being rejected in the
bars and in life. So, why not turn straight? Then no more problems.
Alas in life it doesn't work that way. Take a pill and girls turn you
on. No, it doesn't happen. Our hero just fools himself in believing it
will change his personality and bring him happiness with a woman. But
our hero's problem seems to be not in the sex department but his own
self confidence in himself. He lacks any commitment in anything. Seems
to be dream walking and fantasizing his romantic escapades, including a
gorgeous straight friend who gives his body to him out of friendship.
This is what annoyed me in the film. Using others for your own
weaknesses. Using them and then dumping them when it doesn't work. The
cast seemed to be good for the most part and fit the roles well. Our
hero, Jonathan Slavin, was very cold and filled with enough self pity.
But I never felt the emotional toll it took on him. He seemed too staid
in the role. However Susan Slone, his best friend, was perfection. With
the right amount of sensitivity not to go over the wall. Her breakdown
scene was simply precious. Quiet and filled with such raw emotions.
Scotch Ellis Loring, his good gay bar hopping friend who cannot commit
to any relationship, was well cast. Jennifer Elise Cox played the woman
he befriends in a sexual relationship and goes home to meet the folks.
She did a good job and came off sympathetic as well. Jason Bushman
played a straight young beauty in our hero's office that is
understanding of our hero's ailments. When he tries to approach him
with his own doubts, I felt the script fell flat. Sort of a rush job
ending. My favorite actor in this was Mike Begovich as the giving
straight friend who really loved our hero in his own way. His wearing
down and falling apart was so natural and realistic, I wanted to just
hold him and weep. Brilliant work.
So, good idea, fairly written, well cast, yet lost original concept along the way. Worth seeing for some of the fine acting.
Sweet, well-intended comedy/drama examining sexuality and love.
A company comes out with a pill to make gay men straight and Tim (a very good Jonathan Slavin) decides to try it, since there is a painful lack of romance in his life as a gay man, while a number smart women seem to like him.
This leads to all sorts of complications, hurt feelings, lost friendships.
Some of this is clunky, the plot relying a bit heavily on some thin ideas, cliché characters, and big coincidences.
But it has a good heart, nice performances and ultimately is a real affirmation of self- acceptance, without pretending that is always an easy thing.
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