Call Jane

Call Jane

2022, R, 121 min. Directed by Phyllis Nagy. Starring Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards.

REVIEWED By Sarah Jane, Fri., Oct. 28, 2022

From director Phyllis Nagy (writer of 2015's Carol) comes Call Jane, a film loosely based on the Jane Collective, aka Jane, an underground abortion services provider in Chicago that helped women obtain safe abortions from 1969 to 1973. In the film, Joy (Banks) is a homemaker married to Will (Messina), an attorney. They have a 15-year-old daughter, Charlotte (Edwards). Joy is in her first trimester when she discovers she has congestive heart failure brought on by the pregnancy. Told the only cure for it is to “not be pregnant,” she asks what can be done. Abortion is illegal in the state of Illinois, and the hospital board refuses to give an emergency exception since there’s only a 50% chance she’ll die. She looks for alternatives (pretending to be suicidal, throwing herself down the stairs) and ends up in a back-alley abortion parlor. She runs out of there and just happens to discover an ad at a bus stop with a number to “Call Jane” if pregnant and needing help. She calls the number and that starts her on a path where she not only is able to receive the abortion, but she eventually becomes part of Jane alongside the leader of the collective, Virginia (Weaver).

While the subject matter is extremely important, especially on the heels of the Supreme Court throwing out the Roe v. Wade decision this year, there’s something about Call Jane that just doesn’t feel right. There was a lot that should’ve been said in this movie but either was left unsaid or simply had lip service paid to it. For example, Jane member Gwen (Mosaku) brings up the fact that only rich white women can afford their services and maybe they should try helping Black women, too. Virginia dismisses her concerns and the whole discussion is wrapped up in 60 seconds. Huh?

That's one of many areas that surely should’ve been addressed thoroughly and not just tossed away as an aside. Too often, storyline and characters are introduced and then seemingly abandoned, as happens with Kate Mara’s character, Lana, the widowed lush next-door neighbor who gets jettisoned after the beginning of the movie only to be brought back in with a last-minute forced scene with Messina. There really isn’t a reason for the character to even be in the movie.

The music choices seemed odd to me, too. First, I seriously doubt that Charlotte has a copy of Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat album (Joy finds it in her daughter’s collection and puts it on while she’s in the kitchen, causing Charlotte to remonstrate, “No one cooks to the Velvet Underground!”). Also, playing Malvina Reynolds' “What’s Goin' on Down There” while Joy is in the bathroom with her legs spread, looking at her vagina, is rather beyond the pale.

For a movie that’s just over two hours, one would’ve thought there was plenty of time to come to a conclusion, but, no, it’s all wrapped up in one paltry voiceover scene. Talk about whiplash. For a heavy-duty subject, Call Jane is anything but, moving along almost like a lighthearted Lifetime movie. This topic is so now and necessary (like another Jane Collective might be in the very near future), but this just doesn’t fit the bill.

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Call Jane, Phyllis Nagy, Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards

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