A quick trip to the film’s website makes it very clear that this film was a deeply personal labor of love for Michelle Goetsch, the overachieving writer-director-producer-star of “The Pill,” based as it was on her experience with a miscarriage some years before the film was made. It’s a hard thing to consider a work of such passion and say what I’m about to say, but my sympathy towards Ms. Goetsch does not make her film good. This isn’t, or at least should not be, all that surprising: nothing so consistently scuttles the work of even the most seasoned professionals as the dreaded “pet project.” Goetsch has erred in a way that countless filmmakers have before her: the story mattered so much to her, she lost all critical distance, and was no longer able to recognize the myriad ways in which her film, to be impolitic about it, sucks.
Rachel Larson (Goetsch) is delighted to learn that she’s pregnant, although somewhat surprised that this could happen despite her use of the birth control pill. As she visits various doctors’ offices, and learns that despite all the chemical evidence, there’s no fetus visible to her sonogram, and in grand “Rosemary’s Baby” fashion, she begins to suspect that something sinister may be afoot.
There’s nothing bad with that story, it’s just not executed well on any level, and that is nowhere more evident than in the woeful central performance. Goetsch is not hardwired to be an actress: she mangles every line of dialogue and equates being loud with being emotional. The rest of the cast is little, if at all better; but they are not in every scene. She is, and by the end of the film I was a little embarrassed for her.
Not just as an actress; her writing and directing leave quite a bit to be desired, as well (her producing I will leave alone; the film was indeed produced, after all). The dialogue her is all thick and artificial, especially in a dangerously unhinged and unedited bit of polemic where Rachel goes on a lengthy tangent about the way that society treats women who suffer miscarriages. When it’s realistic, it’s indescribably dull, as in the three-minute “buying a crib” scene.
The rest of the film isn’t just bad, it’s borderline-incompetent. This is a film that can’t even successfully utilize shot-reverse shot – one of the basic elements of Hollywood visual storytelling. There is one scene in particular, in which Rachel speaks to a doctor, in which the eye-lines are mismatched to a comical degree. Film students are given failing grades for this kind of sloppy work, and between Goetsch and cinematographer-editor Jared Schoenemann, someone should really have noticed that things were terribly amiss.
None of this addresses the film’s twist ending, which is somewhat predictable and extremely silly. I’ll not spoil it, but it doesn’t fit into the film at all, turning what is I think meant to be a searing vision of personal suffering into a war-of-the-sexes satire. It makes no sense and wasn’t apparently subjected to any sort of critical consideration, which fits it perfectly into this film’s greater scheme of good intentions going horribly, helplessly awry.