a film by John Baumgartner
2005 | 94 mins | US
›› Hard Pill
would you take a pill if it could make you straight?
Hard Pill by John Baumgartner Would you take a pill if it could make you straight? Such is the thought-provoking concept from writer and director John Baumgartner, as he cinematically poses the hypothetical dilemma of whether your life would be better if you could change your sexual orientation? But would it?

Well one such individual who has decided to jump ship is Timothy Barren, having long cast aside any hope of finding love in the gay community in favour of administering oral relief to 'officially straight' songwriter Don. Tired of his life as a single gay man, he willing volunteers for a controversial pharmaceutical conversion trial, much to the furore of his politically and sexually active gay best friend Joey. And what do you know, for within weeks Tim is having close encounters of the straight kind, having fallen for the feminine charms of the beautiful Tanya, much to the vexation of friend and co-worker Sally, a woman who has long carried a torch for him, only to see it cast aside following a definitive one-night stand. But is Tim and Tanya's relationship destined to survive, when the effects of the drug start to wear off?

Clearly a low budget affair, what is lacking in terms of finance is more than compensated for by way of the commitment that the cast gave to this intriguing, if somewhat alarming vision of the future, having developed the film creative workshop fashion. Yet the moral implications of a 'gay cure' are but the backdrop to the real story on offer here, namely the repercussions such an act has on a close circle of friends, when the gay lynchpin of their lives turns straight.

Hard Pill by John Baumgartner To that end Jonathan Slavin as Tim is every inch the dejected 'plain Jim' of the piece, desperate to find love at any cost, a performance that nicely contrasts against Mike Begovich as hetero / homo Don and Jason Bushman who here goes back in the closet to play newbie Matt; a young man starting to come to terms with his sexuality and who may just be the answer to Tim's quest. Yet alongside Scotch Ellis Loring as OTT Joey, it is Susan Slome as Sally and Jennifer Elise Cox as Tanya who provide the spirited performances that give this feature a warmth missing from a lead character who is blind to the fact that each of his friends equally has their own cross to bear and here cue the subplots of unrequited love, depression, rejection and a fear of commitment.

Rebelling against the 'pretty boy' image of so many gay films and complete with newsreel styled interviews to showcase arguments on both sides of the moral divide, Baumgartner has delivered an engagingly perceptive work, one that vividly illustrates the complications 'going straight' can have on friends and family, let alone your own mental and physical well-being. Then again and unlike the star of the show, this is one tablet that for many would be a hard pill to swallow!
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue
starring: Jonathan Slavin, Scotch Ellis Loring, Susan Slome, Mike Begovich, Jennifer Elise Cox,
Jason Bushman, Timothy Omundson, John Hartmann, Beth Grant,
Michael Chieffo, Jessalyn Rizzi, Douglas Weston
Copyright 2009 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #193
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