The Pill

Offers an intriguing spin on a classic screwball setup: A young man, engaged to the wrong girl, finds himself swept away by a free spirit who turns out to be the right one.

Unprotected sex on a first date and attendant male anxiety over unwanted progeny provide a curiously old-fashioned premise for “The Pill,” which offers an intriguing spin on a classic screwball setup: A young man, engaged to the wrong girl, finds himself swept away by a free spirit who turns out to be the right one. Deftly avoiding both the haphazardness of mumblecore and the fakery of studio romantic comedies, Khoury deploys a light directorial touch marked by assured thesping and a genuine appreciation for neurotic angst. Sparkling with minor-key surprises, this modest, Gotham-set no-budgeter could sprout indie legs.

When Fred (Noah Bean, excelling as the nerdy yet sexy hero) accompanies just-met Mindy (Rachel Boston) home, her domestic disorder (complete with used condom in the trash) disturbs his fastidious soul, but large quantities of alcohol temporarily allay his fears. The next morning, however, he panics over the possibility of paternity and drags a reluctant Mindy to a pharmacy, where she swallows a “day after” pill.

They part less than amicably — until Fred discovers, once she’s left, that a second pill must be ingested 12 hours after the first. Frantically backpedaling to regain Mindy’s good graces without explaining why, he helplessly tags along as she leads him into one awkward bohemian situation after another, somewhat in the manner of an “After Hours” lite.

Thus, Fred finds himself trying to inconspicuously maneuver Mindy’s suitcases out of a strange bedroom while her inconsolable ex (Al Thompson) begs him to stay and hear his lamentations over this heart-crushing breakup.

Next, Mindy talks Fred into attending a party that turns out to be a strictly family affair celebrating her brother’s 11th birthday. Fred, introduced as Mindy’s new b.f., is mercilessly grilled by her weird French father (Jean Brassard) while the belly dancer (Julia Royter), Dad’s gift to the birthday boy, gyrates by.

Throughout, Fred surreptitiously attempts to placate his longtime significant other, Nelly (a pitch-perfect Anna Chlumsky), who’s returned home from a business trip and texts him with mounting impatience. Nelly emerges as a younger, more corporate version of Patricia Neal in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — bossy, driven and basically bankrolling Fred while he writes his novel. Fred winds up racing from one apartment to the other, inventing increasingly lame alibis for his absences.

Providing subtle contrasts between the distinctive Gotham neighborhoods Fred traverses on his farcical odyssey, Andreas von Scheele’s lensing has an understated, freewheeling quality consistent with the film’s other technical elements.

The Pill

  • Production: A Shoot First Entertainment production. Produced by J.C. Khoury, Trevor Herrick. Directed, written, edited by J.C. Khoury.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Andreas von Scheele; music, Didier Lean Rachou; production designer, Anna-Karin Edelbrock; sound, Matthew Kraus; sound designer, Michael McMenomy; casting, Lindsay Chag. Reviewed at Gen Art Film Festival, New York, June 12, 2011. (Also in Dances With Films.) Running time: 83 MIN.
  • With: With: Noah Bean, Rachel Boston, Anna Chlumsky, Al Thompson, Jean Brassard, Jack Tartaglia, Rob Yang, Dreama Walker, Julia Royter. (English, French dialogue)