Call Jane (film review)

This is a terrific film. Call Jane (2022) deserved a huge release; it needs to be seen by every thinking American. The closed-minded won’t see it anyway. With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and taking America back to the Dark Ages, this film revisits the past, 1968 to be exact, when women couldn’t have their own bank accounts and abortions had to be performed in risky settings. Worse than that, woman were shamed and made to feel like criminals.

Forty minutes into the film, Joy (Elizabeth Banks) undergoes an abortion, provided by an underground organization that offered safe procedures. It’s very riveting, matter-of-fact presentation of the experience, which I assume to be fairly accurate.

Joy is married to an attorney and lives in the Chicago suburbs. Her pregnancy threatens her life, and is unable to get her pregnancy terminated by her hospital, as the all male board votes against it with a total lack of compassion. Save the baby, but let the mother die.

Just after her abortion, Joy gets pulled into helping the organization which is called Jane. Women who need help call Jane. There is no Jane, but there is Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), who runs the organization. Virginia is persuasive in attracting, like-minded women to get involved in helping other women who have no safe place to go.

Banks and Weaver

Joy starts out giving a woman a ride to the facility, that leads to meeting with women in need and assisting calm women during the procedure. She takes the volunteer job seriously, reading up on female anatomy and spending more and more time with organization. Her family does not know what she’s doing, using the excuse of attending art classes. Joy is smart, catching on that the doctor who is performing the abortions is not really a doctor, and blackmails him into teaching her the procedure.

Elizabeth Banks is outstanding in this role. She plays both an upstanding suburbanite and a liberated force of social change. I have a new respect for Banks, she delivers a textured performance, showing her character undergoing great personal change and finding her purpose. She’s convincing, delivering nuisances that bigger names actresses get credit and nominations for this kind of work.

Weaver is a take-no-prisoner leader of this group. Virginia is determined, earthy and bawdy. At 73, she’s sexy, bossy and charming. In her scenes, she owns the camera.

The other cast members are wonderful, credit the filmmakers for finding superb actors to round out this film.

Wunmi Mosaku is Gwen, the only Black Jane, who wants women of color to have equal access to the service. Cory Michael Smith is Dr. Dean, the fake physician who seems as likely to hit on patients as to help them, Kate Mara is the widowed neighbor Lana, who is available if Joy’s marriage crumbles. Husband Will, played by Chris Messina, is initially against Joy’s. He’s an attorney and sees her work as clearly a high risk. The teenage daughter Charlotte, played by Grace Edwards suspects her mother is involved in something secretive and becomes a supporter. Joy’s family represents the changing views of middle class America in 1968.

The film was written by Hayley Schore and
Roshan Sethi, and directed by Phyllis Nagy. Together, they have made an intelligent and compassionate film, one that is not overly preachy, but lays out the realities of women’s choice about their own bodies and It is fact-based on a group of women in Chicago who ran an underground network, but not based on specific people.

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