DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further in this review, I want to make an announcement. In all of my content that I have done on Scene Before, I have often tried to stray away from politics, especially in recent years. But “Call Jane” is a film that requires me to talk about certain issues that some would deem “political.” This is a movie about abortion after all, which can be defined as a human issue. But given the current climate, it is also political, not to mention religious. Therefore, if you decide to read on, you will hear certain thoughts I have on such an issue. I try to keep politics and entertainment separate, even during my yearly awards shows, but this is a case where I have little to no choice in this matter. With that said, enjoy my review of “Call Jane.”
“Call Jane” is directed by Phyllis Nagy, who also wrote “Carol,” in addition to scribing and directing a 2005 HBO film titled “Mrs. Harris.” This film stars Elizabeth Banks (The LEGO Movie, Pitch Perfect), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Ghostbusters), Chris Messina (Birds of Prey, The Mindy Project), Kate Mara (Fantastic Four, The Martian), Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country, Loki), Cory Michael Smith (Camp X-Ray, Gotham), Grace Edwards (Schooled, Modern Love), and John Magaro (Orange Is the New Black, The Good Wife). This film follows a housewife in the 1960s who becomes pregnant and finds out said pregnancy could threaten her life. With few options available, she finds herself amongst the Janes, who despite certain laws being in place, perform abortion procedures. After finding out more about their efforts, she joins the Janes in their mission.
I did not hear much about this movie until a week or two before it came out. Although I was sold immediately upon seeing Elizabeth Banks’s name attached. She is easily one of my favorite actors, no, people working in Hollywood. She is easily the best game show host on television with her run on ABC’s “Press Your Luck.” I love her voiceover work in both of the “LEGO Movies.” Some of her physical roles like “Slither,” “Zack and Miri,” or even her supporting character in “Brightburn” stand out to me. The last movie I reviewed, specifically “Black Adam,” is no stranger to star power with box office behemoth Dwayne Johnson at the top of the cast. While Johnson may be a star, Banks is a thespian. Her talent knows no bounds. Even though I was not fan of her directorial effort in 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels,” I still have respect for her. In fact, she is directing another film set to come out soon, “Cocaine Bear,” a movie with a concept that is awesome as it sounds.
As for the film itself, this did not look like my type of movie, and to be frank, if I were not reviewing movies, I would have probably waited to watch this film when it came out for home viewing. That said, I went to go see this film in the theater a couple weekends ago. Was it worth the impromptu trip?
I guess you can say so.
If I have noticed anything about filmmakers and stars over the years, it is that they do projects that often align to certain values. Paul Feig, who once wrote an article suggesting “Why Men Aren’t Funny,” went on to direct a woman-centered “Ghostbusters” remake. Seth MacFarlane, who has often been vocal about his liberal opinions, has done a series of “Family Guy” episodes making fun of famous conservatives like Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump. Regardless of whether how often people do projects aligning with what they think, I would say Elizabeth Banks, who happens to be the chair for the Center for Reproductive Rights Creative Council, was a solid choice to play the main character. Her experience with such matters in real life seem to translate with how effectively she plays Joy. To my lack of surprise, she is the highlight of the film.
While “Call Jane” does not have my favorite cast of the year, it does come with some great actors including the legendary Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, and Wunmi Mosaku. All of whom play their part very well. Each one feels representative of the time, and the dialogue occasionally did them favors.
Phyllis Nagy does not have a lot of directorial credits on her resume. Her only other one is a straight to premium cable film, therefore this is her first theatrically released directorial feature. “Call Jane” has one of my favorite early shots of any 2022 feature. I always enjoy when movies have extended takes and this movie is no stranger to that. It does such a thing beautifully. There are better directorial visions that came out this year, but this one stands out to me.
Unlike other films coming out this time of year, this movie is not going to win any notable awards. Partially because of its lack of marketing and the fact that there are supposedly better movies coming. That said, “Call Jane” is a movie that if it had a bigger budget and played in more cinemas, it would probably be in a larger conversation for Oscar contention. It is also a movie that makes its message clear, and knowing the Hollywood stereotype, there is often a tendency for the progressive voices to be heard or recognized when it comes to Hollywood filmmaking. Why do you think some of the more notable jokes during the Oscars in recent years were about Donald Trump or his colleagues?
“We don’t make films like ‘Call Me by Your Name’ for money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.” -Jimmy Kimmel (The Oscars, 2018)
There is a saying that not every movie is for everyone. That statement is often used to describe personal tastes. Even though I hated Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” because of its ridiculously fast-paced editing, I can see why people like it. Maybe that style appeals to people. My mom and I often have different tastes in movies. She often likes disposable comedies, I am more of an action junkie. Not everyone is going to like the same things. With “Call Jane,” this movie’s biggest weakness is that its viewers may automatically be turned off by its concept. I will iterate, I am pro choice, therefore I watched this movie with no opposition to some of the things happening on screen. But if you are pro life, there is a good chance that you might turn this movie off 20 minutes into it, possibly even before that.
Although at the same time, given the current political climate and the way things are, I think that this is a relevant story that was perfect to release this year, coincidental or not. “Call Jane” is a movie that I assume is going to resonate with individuals who have some sort of experience with unwanted pregnancy or abortion. But I do not know how many people this could convince to become more open-minded towards abortion whether it is for religious reasons, political reasons, or something else. This is a movie that to me, does not feel like propaganda, but could easily be interpreted as such depending on who you talk to. As for whether this movie does something to sway people in one direction or another in regards to abortion, that could take years to be answered. But unless this film becomes a big hit on streaming for some reason, the message of this film will likely not have as big of an impact some of its crew would probably want to achieve.
In the end, “Call Jane” is a difficult movie to judge because I think it ultimately depends on where one stands on abortion. That said, as a story, this was compelling and engaging. Therefore, I liked it. Elizabeth Banks is great as the lead, the supporting cast also shows their talent, including Chris Messina. He and Banks have one particular scene towards the end of the film that has not left my mind. This is a film that I would recommend, but only to certain people. This is the kind of movie that if you hear the concept, you might know right away whether or not it is worth your time. For me, it was. Maybe it will be for you, maybe it will not. We shall see. Despite my mixed recommendation, I do want to see what would happen if someone who is pro life watches this to the end. It could make for a fun experiment. Will the viewer see it as propaganda? Will they see it as just plain wrong? Could it change minds? Great movies have the power to offer new perspectives that people take with them and change who they are. I simply do not know if “Call Jane” is able to do that despite being a decent story. Given its decency, I am going to give “Call Jane” a 7/10.
“Call Jane” is seemingly finishing up its theatrical run. It is available for preorder on streaming platforms like Vudu.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the highly anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe installment “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” While this may not be the movie I am not putting at the top of my hype list this year, it is the one releasing this year that I am mostly curious as to how it could possibly be pulled off. Between Chadwick Boseman’s death, rewriting the future of a cinematic universe, and the return of Ryan Coogler in the director’s chair, this could be something special. I will unveil my official verdict soon. I am seeing the movie tonight in IMAX 3D. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Call Jane?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Elizabeth Banks movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!