I sometimes lament our 2022 technology obsessed culture, but 1968, to borrow a phrase from a former colleague of mine, was no Swiss picnic. Racial strife and the constrictive gender roles look so dystopian and are the key topics of Call Jane, Phyllis Nagy’s first feature film.
The screenwriters Hayley Schore and Roshan Sheti need some help though, mainly in the area of pacing. Just because your movie’s about 1962, doesn’t mean you can use the same somewhat dimwitted timing. The first 20 minutes could have been edited for enhanced suspense.
The basic premise is what happened to women pre Roe vs. Wade and how a group of woman (the Jane Collective) formed to make safe abortions possible.
Nagy had top notch actors> Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Banks (should have won the group Oscar for best film for Love and Mercy) and Chris Messina and yet I don’t feel the dialogue was good enough for their star power. Make Chirs as sexy as he is in real life, ditto Sigourney and Elizabeth. The characters all seemed as bland as Wonder Bread or as mild as Ponds Cold Cream.
Two stand outs in the film, meaning they actually seemed to have blood pulsing through their veins were Wunmi Mosaku (won a Bafta, so an obvious acting force) and Cory Michael Smith who play a black activist and abortion doctor respectively.
Banks does a yeoman’s job with little screenplay help, portraying a woman hiding a side passion project. Her ability to make the late 60’s suburban Chicago existence resemble the Victorian Age is part of the draw of this movie. Likewise, Messina, stuck in the manly late 60’s breadwinner role, also is believable as a husband who wants the best for his family, but also is well versed in sweeping what he doesn’t want to see under the rug.
Call Jane is worth seeing, but could easily be seen on the small screen due to the pedestrian cinematography and low beam color.