Phyllis Nagy directing a movie about the Jane movement should be a revelation and absolutely break people into sobbing puddles of their former self. However, with her movie Call Jane it lacks that conviction and passion we’ve seen her deliver from the director’s chair before. And while boasting some incredible performances, pulls far too many of its punches and leaves the audience craving something more. Something that they could find with the documentary on the same subject matter that was released this year. It is not her direction that is in question here. But rather that screenplay written by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi that is the weak link in Call Jane.
The film focuses on Joy, played by Elizabeth Banks, who was told that her current pregnancy with her second child is dangerous and she may not make it through the pregnancy. She inquires about a “therapeutic termination” which then has to go to a board of men. Those men can thus decide if she can be granted this abortion or if she has to carry the baby to term. After all, the film takes place pre Roe v Wade. However, the board decides to rule against the procedure. As they decides to play with Joy’s life she takes it upon herself to find a way to save herself. She also wants to save other women any way she can.
Joy meets Virginia, played by Sigourney Weaver who runs the Janes collective essentially. She starts to volunteer for them and provide safety and housing for women who need abortions. Abortions they cannot get because of this asinine law. Helping Joy and Virginia on the Jane collective are other activists and women seeking to help others. These members include such as Lana played by Kate Mara and Gwen played by Wunmi Mosaku. Corey Michael Smith plays Dean whose the ‘doctor’ performing the underground abortions, but his qualifications are questionable at best.
Where Call Jane works is with the performances from both Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver. They are both at the top of their game. They deliver some incredible performances including an arguable career best for Elizabeth Banks. Their chemistry is nothing shy of impeccable and together they try to make the best out of the situation they find themselves in. That is however the films biggest downfall, lays within the script. There is not enough to captivate the audience and it constantly holds back and doesn’t hit the punches it desperately needs to land.
There are brief moments where it feels like it has you and it is going to take you to that reactive point of no return. Then it stops in its tracks and moves on, or it breaks its momentum with the occasional tonal shift. The film has such strong performances. A stronger script, then, would’ve elevated this look at The Janes – a monumental group of women fighting for their rights. This could have gone from its underwhelming storytelling with great performances to gut wrenching storytelling supported by powerhouse acting.
- Rated: R
- Genre: Drama, History
- Release Date: 10/27/2022
- Directed by: Phyllis Nagy
- Starring: Chris Messina, Cory Michael Smith, Elizabeth Banks, John Magaro, Kate Mara, Sigourney Weaver, Wunmi Mosaku
- Produced by: Claude Amadeo, David M. Wulf, Kevin McKeon, Lee Broda, Michael D'Alto, Robbie Brenner
- Written by: Hayley Schore, Roshan Sethi
- Studio: Our Turn Productions, RB Entertainment Production, Redline Entertainment, Unburdened Entertainment