Call Jane stars Elizabeth Banks as Joy, a stay-at-home wife pregnant with her second child. Joy and her husband Will (Chris Messina) soon discover that Joy’s pregnancy is causing her congestive heart failure. The doctor gives her two options: die carrying the child or have an abortion. It’s 1968, still a few years away from Roe vs. Wade, and abortions are illegal underground operations. After a scare, Joy discovers “Call Jane” a service involving a network of suburban woman who arrange abortions for women in need. The initiative is run by Virginia (Sigourney Weaver) who takes Joy under her wing. Corrupt doctor Dean (Cory Michael Smith) charges $600 per procedure which is out of reach for most women who seek the service. Joy and Virginia team together to make abortions available to more applicants but do so in a safe, affordable yet unconventional way. Joy does all of this while keeping it secret from her husband, daughter (Grace Edwards) and neighbor Lana (Kate Mara).
Based on the true story of the Jane Initiative, Call Jane is directed by Phyllis Nagy, best known for her stunning adaptation Carol (2015). Call Jane has similar pacing as Carol. The film takes its time telling its story. Patient viewers will be greatly rewarded. Call Jane shines a spotlight on the history of abortion but also offers us a look into a future where abortions may become illegal again. Women will seek out abortions regardless of their legality and while the Jane Initiative saw no casualties, many other women have died from botched back alley abortions. This film won’t change anyone’s mind about abortion. But it does serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come and what we have to lose.
Call Jane premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Hildy Good (Sigourney Weaver) knows the town of Wendover, MA like the back of her hand. She’s one of top real estate agents for the community, has lived there most of her life and co-exists her her ex-husband, her two daughters and her new neighbor Rebecca (Morena Baccarin). The problem with Hildy is that she’s a raging alcoholic. A functional one but still raging. Her family stages an intervention and while Hildy agrees to get better she just continues to get worse. While her business flails and her blackouts become more frequent, she enlists the help of her ex Frankie (Kevin Kline) to help her with a particularly daunting project. As Hildy rekindles an old flame, she has to come to terms with her deeply rooted problems before everything in her life falls apart.
“I was born three drinks short of comfortable.”Hildy Good
Based on the novel by Ann Leary and directed by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, The Good House is a solid drama with well-drawn characters and a decidedly classic feel. Sigourney Weaver is absolutely enthralling as Hildy. Both Weaver and Kevin Kline play against type in roles that are really just so interesting to watch on screen and not readily available to actors their age. Every character seems fully realized even the bit players which is an impressive feat.
I wasn’t sure at first about having the protagonist break the fourth wall and narrate to the audience but after a while I got accustomed to it. There is also a light fantastical element that fits well with Hildy’s story and becomes an important plot point later on. While the movie was shot in Nova Scotia, it did still have a distinctly New England vibe.
Notes to add: Wendover, MA is fictional but seems to represent a North Shore town like Beverly, MA. Most of the characters are white with the exception of Asian and Latinx characters.
The Good House is distributed by DreamWorks and recently premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.