An essential education, but this film plods along

Friday November 04, 2022 2:10 p.m.

In a new abortion drama Call Joan, a female character ends up pregnant because she thinks men can’t back out once they start having penetrative sex. Another didn’t know that having sex standing up could lead to pregnancy. Call Jane is filled with revealing moments about the discrimination women who needed abortions faced in the middle of the last century. It is also a necessary reminder that abortions were not legal in the US until 1973 and in the UK until 1967.

Joy leads a quiet, thrill-free life in the suburbs when she becomes pregnant and soon discovers she has a rare condition that puts her chances of surviving childbirth at 50/50. The medical committee of her local hospital unanimously denies her request for an abortion, performed only in exceptional circumstances decided by a group of men. But when she discovers a doctor who specializes in clandestine abortions, she finds herself embroiled in a group of women activists who help organize abortions.

Elizabeth Banks does a great job as Joy, serving up rebellious housewife vibes that only men who hate women couldn’t follow. Sigourney Weaver is on autopilot as a privileged white feminist Virginia who has a singular view of what helping people looks like. Virginia lacks empathy for women — mostly from the black community — who cannot pay the doctor $600 for an illegal abortion. The problem is that not much else happens in terms of peril or turnaround once we get through the first half, which is when the most cruel take place, which are captivating and again, a necessary education, especially for the youngest. public.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t look good. The staging of Phyllis Nagy succeeds well in capturing the confinement of the housewives of the time. Shot on authentic 16mm film at the time, for a good 40 minutes you don’t often see the seedy suburban interiors outside where Joy works as a housewife, and when you do, you almost have the impression that you have to breathe deeply like the characters. Here’s a claustrophobic world pitted against women, and it’s a nuanced touch that husband Will, played by Chris Messina, isn’t a freak but something far more mundane: a regular guy from the era who believes that women should cook dinner for him every night at the expense of an art class.

Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver in Call Jane

We need a few more properly sketched characters and to hear their stories properly fleshed out, especially Weaver’s, who doesn’t come to life because she’s too busy as a prop representing the second-wave feminist movement. Maybe a few more couples and their zoomed-in wrestling would have put more meat on the bones: but anyway, Call Jane is a valuable history lesson.

Call Jane is in theaters now

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