See how Elizabeth Banks joins the Jane Collective.
In the breezy drama “Call Jane,” Elizabeth Banks stars as a traditional Chicago housewife named Joy in 1969, whose pregnancy threatens to give her congestive heart failure, and abortions were illegal at the time. So, she finds an ad that says “Call Jane,” who can give her the abortion she needs. Hence the title: “Call Jane.”
Now this movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel of history films about what were once illegal activities. I mean abortions are still illegal in some places, according to a graph I’ve seen in The New York Times, but it does have its consistency and good heart that allows us to support these women, and their reasons for why they can’t have unwanted pregnancies.
Who’s Jane?,” she asks. It’s just a small-time organization-the Jane Collective-dedicated to helping women and their unwanted pregnancies. This organization needs to take extra precaution, by making the driver give their passengers a ride in shot gun and making them wear bandanas, so they can’t know what location their clinic is.
Joy gets her abortion done by Dean (Cory Michael Smith), who may or may not be a doctor, but still knows how to handle the procedure. He has a Beatles hairstyle with a persistent attitude, as if he’s an autistic expert. He has to make sure she isn’t a cop, he has to tell her to keep still, and he has an attitude about it.
But all things considered, he gets the job done.
She soon joins in and lying to her husband Will (Chris Messina), daughter Sandra (Alison Jaye), and friend Lana (Kate Mara) about suffering from a miscarriage and attending art classes. and she also develops a friendship in one of the members Virginia (Sigourney Weaver).
The price is expensive at $600, so some can’t afford it. That’s kind of a problem, because there are those who either have too many kids, were raped, or are underaged. Joy suggests that they start lowering the price, or even doing some for free, but she’s told they’re trying to survive. So, she gets helps from Dean, who teaches her how to perform the surgery, and she would soon teach the other women how to do it as well.
The family side of “Call Jane” is a mixed bag for me, because there’s a scene when Will finds out about his wife’s games, thanks to the visit from Detective Chilmark (John Magaro), who informs them that one of the women ended up in the hospital. I felt that scene was inferior to Kyle Chandler’s FBI agent in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” especially the way he dresses.
But her daughter Sandra isn’t as gullible as she thinks she is. When she asks her mom if she see one of her paintings from her “art classes,” she says “They’re no good.” But she follows her to the hidden clinic.
“Call Jane” was directed by Phyllis Nagy, who also made the 2005 made-for-HBO film “Mrs. Harris” and wrote the screenplay for “Carol.” She does a good job here guiding these talented actresses with sly wit, versatility, and a passion for the other women who can’t help themselves. It’s not that strong in its storytelling, but it is strong in its commitment and persistence.
Banks is delightful as both the housewife and liberator in the ways she keeps both sides balanced. Weaver has a sassy attitude as her new friend in the ways she knows how the illegal abortion game works and how she helps makes the clinic a more economical place. And Jaye does some good work as the daughter, who knows how to be flexible and emotional.
Probably the most powerful abortion movie I’ve seen was “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” which took place in a 1980s Romania town when abortions were illegal, and was extremely graphic in how they pull off the operation. “Call Jane” is rated R, but it doesn’t care about the graphics; it’s more interested in the instructions of the operation, and how these women have their reasons for they have to terminate their unborn babies.
“Call Jane” knows when to have fun with its main heroine and illegal activities, and knows when to be serious with her and them.