A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages women to advocate for their reproductive rights, to make sure they have a voice in their own health decisions, to trust their instincts. Also promotes compassion, empathy, perseverance, teamwork, and the importance of women working with and for other women.
Positive Role Models
The Janes all risk their personal safety and freedom to help women in need receive counseling and essential medical care. Joy lies to her family about what she's doing when she's away from home, but she does love, encourage, and support her daughter and husband.
Most characters are White and middle/upper-middle class, but story does center on a woman taking charge of her life in the interests of helping other women. Movie was written by women and directed by a queer woman (Phyllis Nagy). Supporting character Gwen (Wunmi Mosaku) is Black and brings up the need for intersectionality in reproductive rights work, particularly as the Janes' work tends to ignore the needs of poor Black and Brown women. A couple of women are cued as lesbians, but aside from a homophobic comment the doctor uses, it's never expressly revealed who is queer.
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Violence & Scariness
Movie begins with silhouette of police beating up a protester. A pregnant woman faints and is deemed to have a life-threatening condition. She begins to fixate on how to end her pregnancy by various means. Several non-graphic scenes of women as they receive D&Cs and terminate pregnancies include their discomfort, fear, and the syringes/tools used. Arguments and yelling.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple kiss and make out partly undressed in bed a couple of times; no nudity or full sex scenes. Two people take off items of clothing while playing a strip-based drinking game. (She makes him a deal by offering to take off her blouse, without a bra on, but it turns out she has a different undergarment on underneath her blouse.) The man is shirtless. A married person kisses someone who isn't their spouse, but they're both apologetic and cut the kiss short.
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Occasional strong language, including one use of homophobic slur "d-ke," a few uses of "f--k" and "f--king," "s--t," "hell," "capitalist pig," "ass," "bastard," "ballbuster," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Smirnoff vodka, a couple of car logos.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult characters frequently smoke cigarettes and have wine, beer, and cocktails. In one scene, a man and woman drink shots and play a stripping game. Two characters share a marijuana joint; one jokes that the other needs to "puff, puff, pass." A character who uses pot for the first time gets very amorous and has the munchies.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Call Jane is a drama about the real-life group of underground Chicago abortion facilitators who called themselves the "Jane Collective" in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Starring Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver, the movie follows a fictionalized suburban housewife whose dangerous pregnancy causes her to call the Jane hotline before clandestinely becoming a reproductive rights activist herself. She and the other Janes demonstrate empathy, compassion, perseverance, and teamwork. Expect a few potentially difficult or triggering scenes of women as they have abortions, although the procedure itself, while explained, is never shown in detail, and there are no graphic images. Adults drink recreationally and in one case play a strip drinking game. Two characters share a marijuana joint, and people also smoke regular cigarettes. Occasional but not overly frequent strong language includes "s--t," "f--k," "f--king," and the homophobic slur "d-ke." Families with teens can discuss the history of the abortion debate, the reality of underground abortion networks, and the overarching issue of equity in health care. Parents and teens can also research the real Jane Collective and the women who worked there together. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Banks gives a commendable performance as a composite character who, while appealing, ultimately isn't as compelling as the real women who were part of the Jane movement. By centering on the fictionalized characters of suburban mom Joy and veteran activist Virginia, director Phyllis Nagy (working from a screenplay by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi) ages up the Janes' main activists (they were largely college age in real life). But this allows Joy to become a stand-in for the average educated, middle-class White woman of the time. She loves her husband and daughter, but she wants her own purpose and work, and the Janes provide that. Messina is believable as a new partner who's genuinely confused by his usually attentive wife's disappearing act. Weaver stands out as the seemingly all-knowing, no-nonsense director of the Janes, and Mosaku, whose Gwen is based on a real person, is memorable as the group's sole Black activist, who tries (mostly in vain, alas) to get the Janes to see how they're leaving behind low-income and Black and Brown women.
Greta Zozula's cinematography smartly uses close-ups during the procedure scenes, and the soundtrack is on-point for the time period, with a wonderful inclusion of Jennifer Warnes' cover of "Let the Sunshine In" at the end of the film. The first two-thirds of the story are well paced, even though the script ignores obvious questions about why Joy and Will would be having a second baby 15 years after their first, or how the Janes got started and ended up vaguely protected by mobsters and cops. But by the last act, there are a few tonal shifts and iffy plot twists. Joy is portrayed as being singular in her essential contribution to the Janes, but in real life, more than one volunteer rose up to do what she did. The movie should inspire more research into the real women who risked their lives -- and eventually went to jail -- to provide safe access to abortions. HBO's documentary The Janes provides a comprehensive view of the movement and features interviews with the real Janes.
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