Review: ‘Migration’ (2023), starring the voices of Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina and Danny DeVito

December 20, 2023

by Carla Hay

Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito), Gwen (voiced by Tresi Gazal), Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings), Pam (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) and Mack (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) in “Migration” (Image courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios)

“Migration” (2023)

Directed by Benjamin Renner; co-directed by Guylo Homsy

Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States and the Caribbean, the animated film “Migration” features a cast of characters portraying different types of birds.

Culture Clash: A family of five mallards (wild ducks) travel outside their home for the first time to go on a vacation in Jamaica, and they encounter various obstacles along the way. 

Culture Audience: “Migration” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching an entertaining, family-oriented animated film.

Gwen (voiced by Tresi Gazal), Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings), Pam (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Delroy (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key), Mack (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) and Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito) in “Migration” (Image courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios)

Elevated by a stellar voice cast, “Migration” is an amusing and crowd-pleasing animated adventure with memorable characters. The movie offers a positive message about being open-minded enough to go outside comfort zones and experience new things. The story is easy to understand and has appeal for many generations of people.

Directed by Benjamin Renner and co-directed by Guylo Homsy, “Migration” was written by Mike White, the Emmy-winning creator of HBO’s “The White Lotus.” There’s some expected formula to the plot of “Migration,” but the dialogue between the characters is an entertaining delight. “Migration” also has some vibrant visuals that showcase birds on a thrilling aerial journey, as well as the beautiful locations that are visited along the way.

“Migration” begins by introducing the family of mallards (wild ducks) that live somewhere in New England go on this life-changing journey. The family patriarch is Mack Mallard (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) and the family matriarch is Pam Mallard (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), who are parents of Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings) and Gwen (voiced by Tresi Gazal). If Dax and Gwen were human, Dax would be about 12 or 13 years old, while Gwen would be about 8 or 9 years old.

The movie’s opening scene shows how Mack and Pam have different personalities and outlooks on life, which are reflected in their parenting styles. Mack teaches his children to be fearful of the unknown, while Pam encourages her children to be curious of the unknown. Mack is shown telling Dax and Gwen a story about duck children who went somewhere they weren’t supposed to go and ended up getting killed. Pam contradicts Mack assures her kids that no one was killed and the story really had a happy ending.

The Mallard family soon meets a lost duck (voiced by Jimmy Donaldson) in local duck habitat called Moosehead Pond. This duck tells the family that he and his flock are making their annual migration south to warmer weather during this winter season. The duck invites the family to migrate too.

Mack is immediately against the idea, because he and his family have never migrated before. After some back-and-forth debate and pleading from the kids, Pam convinces Mack to change his mind, and they decide to go to Jamaica. Joining them on the trip is Mack’s somewhat cranky bachelor Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito), who shares Mack’s tendency to be afraid of taking risks in life.

Along the way, the Mallards go to New York City, where they meet a group of scrappy pigeons, led by tough-talking fighter named Chump (voiced by Awkwafina), who immediately clashes with Mack. The Mallards also meet a rare Jamaican parrot named Delroy (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key), who has a sincere personality and is beng held captive in a cage by a restaurant chef (voiced by Boris Rehlinger) in the restaurant’s kitchen.

The Mallards help Delroy escape. As a thank you, he offers to show them the way to Jamaica. (This isn’t spoiler information, since Delroy is shown in the movie’s trailers.) The Mallards also spend time at a paradise-like duck farm led by the guru-like Goo Goo (voiced by David Mitchell), which might or might not be the safe haven that it appears to be.

“Migration” has the benefit of very good writing as the foundation for making this movie as engaging as it is. Many animated films make the characters too generic, but each of the principal and supporting characters has a distinctive personality that won’t get confused with any other characters. The character of Uncle Dan is a little underdeveloped though. The movie isn’t overstuffed with too many characters or subplots. “Migration” is ultimately a journey worth taking for anyone who wants to see a well-made animated film.

Universal Pictures will release “Migration” in U.S. cinemas on December 22, 2023.

Review: ‘Cocaine Bear,’ starring Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ray Liotta

February 23, 2023

by Carla Hay

Keri Russell in “Cocaine Bear” (Photo by Pat Redmond/Universal Pictures)

“Cocaine Bear”

Directed by Elizabeth Banks

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1985, in Georgia (and briefly in Tennessee and in Missouri), the comedic action film “Cocaine Bear” (based loosely on a true story) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class, working-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: After a drug smuggler dies while parachuting from a plane with large quantities of cocaine, a black bear in a forest area goes on a rampage after ingesting a lot of the cocaine.

Culture Audience: “Cocaine Bear” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching dark and violent action comedies that are intentionally absurdist.

O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ayoola Smart, Alden Ehrenreich and Ray Liotta in “Cocaine Bear” (Photo by Pat Redmond/Universal Pictures)

Just like the bear that’s on a cocaine-fueled rampage, the erratic and unpredictable “Cocaine Bear” aims to shake up people’s sensibilities. It’s a wild and uneven ride, where the movie’s surreal comedy works well, more often than not. If you’re easily offended by the thought of children and animals ingesting cocaine, then it’s best to avoid watching “Cocaine Bear.” If you’re open to watching an adult-oriented comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then “Cocaine Bear” might be enjoyable, in a way that’s similar to how people enjoy going on amusement park rides that bring some terror to the entertainment.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Jimmy Warden, “Cocaine Bear” (which takes place in 1985) is very loosely based on true events. The majority of the movie is fiction. The basic facts that the movie keeps true are that a drug smuggler in his early 40s named Andrew Thornton II (played by Matthew Rhys), who used to be a narcotics police officer in Kentucky, died in Knoxville, Tennessee, after he jumped out of a small private plane with 70 to 75 pounds (or 31 to 34 kilograms) of cocaine, and his parachute malfunctioned. (It’s the opening scene of “Cocaine Bear.”)

Before jumping out of the plane, he had dumped duffel bags filled with several bricks of cocaine in the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest in Georgia. The most common theory is that Thornton had brought too much cocaine on the plane and unloaded some of his stash in the forest, with a plan to go back later and get the cocaine. However, in real life, a black bear got to the cocaine first and was found dead of an overdose. In the movie, the bear doesn’t die of an overdose but instead goes on a killing spree where humans are the main targets. All of the characters in “Cocaine Bear” except Thornton are fabricated for the movie. The “cocaine” seen in the movie is actually sugar or artificial sweetener.

An introduction statement in the movie explains that black bears usually don’t attack people unless it’s for reasons related to food, self-defense or invasion of a bear’s territory. “Cocaine Bear” doesn’t waste much time before the mayhem starts. At Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest, two German-speaking tourists named Elsa (played by Hannah Hoekstra) and Olaf (played by Kristofer Hivju), who also goes by the name Kristoffer, are hiking and taking photos. They see a bear acting strangely, such as dry-humping a tree.

Elsa and Olaf/Kristoffer are intrigued and want to take photos of this bear, although he is more hesitant because he heard that black bears can be deadly. According to the “Cocaine Bear” production notes, the movie’s coke-fueled bear (which the cast and crew nicknamed Cokey) is actually a combination of visual effects and motion caption imagery with stunt performer Allan Henry. In the movie, tourists Elsa and Olaf/Kristoffer are the first people who have a very unlucky encounter with the bear. Only one of these tourists makes it out alive.

The first 20 minutes of “Cocaine Bear” jump around a lot from scene to scene, by quickly showing the other characters in the movie who will encounter the bear. In St. Louis, Missouri, an international drug smuggler named Syd (played by Ray Liotta) was responsible for getting the cocaine shipment that Thornton was supposed to deliver. In real life, the deceased Thornton was found with cocaine that was worth $15 million at the time. In the movie, it’s mentioned that the missing cocaine in the forest is worth about $7 million.

Syd comically has his headquartes at Four Pines Mall, where he likes to hang out with his small crew at O’Shaughnessy’s Burger Time restaurant. Syd’s two main henchmen are his son Eddie (played by Alden Ehrenreich) and Eddie’s best friend Daveed (played by O’Shea Jackson Jr.), who is the more risk-taking and tougher of the two pals. Thornton’s death has made the national news. Syd knows that he’ll be held responsible for any of the cocaine that’s still missing—and he’ll do whatever it takes to find this stash. Somehow, Syd knows that Thornton had dumped the rest of the stash in the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest.

Eddie is first seen literally crying over his drinks in a dive bar in St. Louis, because he’s grieving over the death of a friend/colleague named John. Eddie is babbling about how the person conducting the funeral service mistakenly called John the name Joan. It’s a rambling scene that didn’t really need to be in the movie, especially since Ehrenreich over-acts in this scene. Daveed comforts Eddie, but they won’t have much time to drown any more of their sorrows in a St. Louis bar, because Syd has ordered Eddie and Daveed to go to Georgia to find the missing cocaine in the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest.

Meanwhile, the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest is under the jurisdiction of a local police detective named Bob Springs (played by Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who knows that the forest is being used as a drug-smuggling hiding place for Syd and Syd’s “crime family.” Bob is determined to find a way to bust Syd and Syd’s cronies. Bob correctly assumes that there might be some of some of Thornton’s missing cocaine in the forest, and people in Syd’s crew will come looking for this drug stash.

“Cocaine Bear” gets a little sidetracked with some comedic details that don’t become very clear until later in the movie. For example, there are several minutes of screen time showing that Bob, who wants to adopt a dog, had a Maltese delivered to him instead of the Labrador Retriever that Bob originally wanted. Bob asks his police officer colleague Reba (played by Ayoola Smart) to temporarily look after the Maltese, which is a dog with long white fur that he thinks looks too high-maintenance and “fancy” for Bob. Viewers have to watch an epilogue scene in “Cocaine Bear” to see the reason why the movie keeps showing this Maltese.

Also in the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest area is a hospital nurse named Sari (played by Keri Russell), who is financially struggling and has to work extra shifts to help make ends meet. Sari is the mother of 13-year-old Dee Dee (played by Brooklynn Prince), who has dreams of becoming a painter artist. Dee Dee’s best friend is a slightly younger child named Henry (played by Christian Convery), who has a crush on Dee Dee and spends a lot of time trying to impress her.

Dee Dee and Henry are both playful and a little rebellious. They skip school one day so that Dee Dee can go to a place in the forest’s Blood Mountain, where there is a nearby waterfall that Dee Dee wants to paint so that she can use this painting to get accepted into a prestigious art camp. A big part of the movie is about Sari trying to find “missing” Dee Dee and Henry in the forest. Because Dee Dee and Henry have gone missing on the same day that the cocaine bear goes on a rampage, you can easily predict what might happen with these two kids.

The Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest has a visitor center, where a no-nonsense park ranger named Liz Winters (played by Margo Martindale) works as a manager of sorts. (She’s the only employee of the visitor center who’s seen in the movie.) Liz tries to come across as being tough as nails, but she’s got a soft spot for an animal-rights activist named Peter (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, in a very fake-looking wig), who calls himself a “life inspection representative.” Peter is a regular visitor to make sure that no animals are being harmed in the forest.

Peter might be aware that Liz has a crush on him. The movie drops in some adult-oriented double entendre jokes. For example, Peter comments to bachelorette Liz about one of the taxidermy animals on display in the visitor center: “You’ve got a dusty beaver here, rancher.” Liz smirks and replies, “I’m working on it.” Later in the movie, two paramedics named Beth (played by Kahyun Kim) and Tom (played by Scott Seiss) arrive by ambulance to the visitor center in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes.

A group of troublemakers in their late teens and early 20s, who call themselves the Duchamps, have been robbing and assaulting people in the forest area. Only three of these gang members are shown in “Cocaine Bear,” and they only have nicknames in the movie. Kid (played by Aaron Holliday), also known as Stache, is the youngest and most likely to talk himself out of tough situations with an opponent. Ponytail (played by Leo Hanna) is the biggest bully in the group. Vest (played by J.B. Moore) is the most likely to get scared when things go wrong.

All of these characters encounter each other in one way or another during “Cocaine Bear.” There’s a lot of gruesome violence that looks straight out of a horror movie. However, “Cocaine Bear” is never really a horror movie because it stays consistently true to its intention of being an action comedy. The bear does some unrealistic stunts and has some human-like facial expressions that seem to be the filmmakers’ way of winking at the audience to show that “Cocaine Bear” is an absurdist fictional film.

In one of his last movie roles, Liotta (who died in his sleep in 2022, at the age of 67) seems to be having fun as the “Cocaine Bear” Syd character, which is a spoof of all the callous criminals that Liotta portrayed in his long acting career. Martindale, Ferguson and Jackson also have great comedic timing and understood that “Cocaine Bear” is meant to have a dark-but-wacky satirical tone in this story about humans versus a wild animal. The rest of the cast members are serviceable in their roles. The bear, without question, is the star of the show.

For a movie about a cocaine-fueled killer bear on the loose, “Cocaine Bear” occasionally disappoints when the movie becomes less suspenseful about when the bear is going to attack next. The adrenaline-packed momentum drags when the movie gets sidetracked with the some of the shenanigan-like conflicts between people who know about the bear.

“Cocaine Bear” also requires a huge suspension of disbelief that the local fire department (which is usually in charge of handling wild animals) wasn’t called as soon as it was known that a wild bear was killing people. Police detective Bob is the main government official on the scene for most of the movie. And there is no mention of the area being evacuated for safety after it’s known that a killer bear is on the loose, and more people get killed by the bear.

However, no one should be going to see “Cocaine Bear” for realism. Banks’ direction is solid but sometimes a little too busy and unfocused. The movie is hit-and-miss when it comes to the storytelling part of the narrative. And some of the main characters (such as Eddie and Sari) are not very interesting. But “Cocaine Bear” delivers the goods when it comes to viewer anticipation to see what this unhinged bear will do next. The movie is destined to become a cult classic for viewers who like this type of entertainment.

Universal Pictures will release “Cocaine Bear” in U.S. cinemas on February 24, 2023.

Review: ‘Call Jane,’ starring Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver

January 5, 2023

by Carla Hay

Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver in “Call Jane” (Photo by Wilson Webb/Roadside Attractions)

“Call Jane”

Directed by Phyllis Nagy

Culture Representation: Taking place in Chicago, from 1968 to 1973, the dramatic film “Call Jane” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A lawyer’s wife becomes involved with the Jane network, a group of mostly women who provided abortion services in the Chicago area when it was illegal at the time. 

Culture Audience: “Call Jane” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver, as well as people interested in dramatic movies about what life was like for middle-class women in the late 1960s to early 1970s, before the Roe vs. Wade case in 1973 that gave federal legal protection for abortion in the United States.

Elizabeth Banks in “Call Jane” (Photo by Wilson Webb/Roadside Attractions)

“Call Jane,” a drama that takes place from 1968 to 1973, is both a look back into the past and a look into the present and future of anyone who cannot get access to a safe and legal abortion in the United States. When “Call Jane” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in January of that year, abortion had federal legal protection in the U.S., ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade case in 1973. In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, with the court’s decision allowing individual states to determine their respective abortion laws.

“Call Jane” is told from the perspective of a fictional, middle-class woman who gets involved in the Jane network, an underground abortion network in Chicago, beginning in 1968, when she sought a illegal abortion for herself. Some of the comedic moments in “Call Jane” are awkwardly placed, and a few of the characters become dangerously close to being parodies. However, the movie is intriguing overall in portraying a pre-Roe v. Wade female perspective of abortion in the U.S.

Directed by Phyllis Nagy, “Call Jane” uses a lot of fact-based elements of the real-life Jane network and blends them into a story with fictional characters. The 2019 film “Ask for Jane” (written and directed by Rachel Carey) did the same thing, but “Call Jane” has a much higher caliber of talent in front of and behind the camera than “Ask for Jane.” Both films have flaws and are centered primarily on white, middle-class women, when the reality is that women of various demographics used the abortion services of the Jane network. However, “Call Jane” (written by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi) is a better movie overall in every way and doesn’t look like a mediocre made-for-TV film in the way that “Ask for Jane” does.

In “Call Jane,” the main protagonist is Joy Griffin (played by Elizabeth Banks), a homemaker and wife of an attorney named Will (played by Chris Messina), who works in criminal justice. Joy and Will live in Chicago, and they have a teenage daughter named Charlotte (played by Grace Edwards), who’s about 13 or 14 years old. At the beginning of the movie, it’s 1968, and Joy is pregnant.

The movie’s opening scene shows Joy and Will are leaving a lawyers’ convention which has a police barricade outside because of anti-Vietnam War protestors outside. Joy sees police brutality against the protestors as she and Will drive off. He comments with some relief that Charlotte is too young to get involved in the anti-war, anti-establishment movement. Little does Will know that Joy will soon become involved in a “radical” movement of her own.

Joy thinks that she has an ideal life. She has a good and loving family. She helps her husband with his legal briefs. “Honey, you make me sound like Clarence Darrow,” Will says appreciatively.

One of Joy’s best friends is her neighbor Lana (played by Kate Mara), a widow whose daughter Erin (played by Bianca D’Ambrosio) is a friend of Charlotte’s. Lana identifies as a conservative Republican. It’s hinted that Joy is also a registered Republican, but Joy likes to think of herself as more open-minded and more liberal than most Republican mothers.

Things take a turn in Joy’s life one day, when she is dancing with Charlotte in the kitchen to a Velvet Underground song when Joy suddenly collapses. She’s rushed to a hospital, where she gets a grim diagnosis: Her pregancy is causing her to have cardiomyopathy (congestive heart failure), and the doctor says the only medical treatment to stop it would be to have an abortion.

However, in Chicago in 1968, abortion is legal only if it is approved by an authorized board of medical professionals. In Joy’s case, the decision is made by an all-male group of doctors. She’s told that she has a 50% chance of living if she does not terminate the pregnancy. The doctors vote unanimously to not approve the abortion.

Joy doesn’t get much help from Dr. Campbell (played by Joel Brady), her obstetrician/gynecologist, who tells her that another option to get a legal abortion would be for Joy to pretend that she’s suicidal. Dr. Campbell would then get notes from psychiatrists to approve the abortion. Dr. Campbell’s secretary has an even more dangerous suggestion: “Just fall down a staircase. It worked for me.” Fearing that she will die as a result of the pregnancy, a desperate Joy goes to a seedy abortion place in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, but she backs out of the abortion, because she feels that the abortion will be botched by the unsavory people who are in charge.

Joy then finds out about the Jane network through flyers posted on a street. The flyers say, “Pregnant? Anxious? Get Help! Call Jane.” Joy calls the phone number on the flyer, and she discovers that the Jane network offers confidential and anonymous abortions. Because everything is illegal in this process, Joy sees firsthand that the paranoia and precautions involved in the Jane network are on the level of a well-coordinated spy network. People uses aliases and code names and are driven to secretive locations for the abortions.

Joy is terrified during her abortion, but after it’s over, she is surprised and relieved by the counseling and comfort that she receives from the women in the network. During her abortion experience, Joy meets several of the Jane network’s key players. They include strong-willed feminist leader Virginia (played by Sigourney Weaver), who founded the Jane network; outspoken Gwen (played by Wunmi Mosaku), who drove Joy to the abortion location; and compassionate Maeve (played by Evangeline Young), who is among the first women in the group to advocate for the Jane network to offer free abortions to women who can’t afford their price.

The only man who’s part of the network is an abortionist named Dean (played by Cory Michael Smith), who says he’s a doctor with training in obstetrics and gynecology. He is the person who performed the abortion on Joy. Dean’s bedside manner is often arrogant and abrupt to the women who are in his care, but the Jane network relies on him because none of the women in the group has medical training. Later in the story, Dean demands more money for his payment, so the women have to decide how much they need Dean to be a part of their group.

After talking to the members of the Jane network, Joy finds out how much help they need, and she decides to become a part of the network as a volunteer. Joy’s intention is to help other women, many of whom are even more desperate to have an abortion than Joy was. Joy keeps her Jane network activities a secret from everyone she knows who is not part of the network.

At first, Joy lies to Will by saying that she’s taking an art class, to explain her absences when she would usually be at home. When Will complains to Joy that she isn’t spending as much time at home like she used to do, Joy responds by saying, “I need to be with other people who think and do.” The trailer for “Call Jane” already revealed that Will finds out about Joy’s involvement in the Jane network. Will is concerned about Joy going to jail and worried about losing his attorney license if people discover that he knew about Joy’s illegal activities and did nothing about it.

“Call Jane” has some hokey “rah rah feminism” type of dialogue that sounds like made-for-TV slogans instead of realistic conversations. One thing that “Call Jane” does a much better job of portraying than “Ask for Jane” does is how the Jane network had a lot of in-fighting and disagreements among its members. One major point of contention was in how to decide who deserved to get free abortions. Virginia wants it to be a random selection from low-income women, while other Jane network members think the decision should be done on a case-by-case basis of who is the most in need.

The issues of race and socioeconomic class are also authentically discussed in “Call Jane.” Gwen, who is the only woman of color in the group, has to constantly remind the other Jane network members to think outside their privileged bubbles to have more empathy for people of different races and lower incomes who have worse abortion hardships than the average middle-class white woman. During a heated argument (in one of the movie’s best scenes), Gwen points out that African American women in the Chicago area are less likely to be able to afford a safe abortion and are more likely to die from botched abortions. Gwen calls it a form of “black genocide,” which Virginia scoffs at as a “batshit” concept.

As for Joy, she becomes friendly with Gwen, but it’s mostly a superficial relationship that doesn’t extend to Joy showing an interest in having Gwen in her life for the long haul. The movie has some racial stereotyping, by having Gwen show Joy how to smoke marijuana. It’s as if the movie is saying that out all the left-wing, progressive types that Joy is now hanging out with in the Jane network, the only black person in the group is the only person who needs to be singled out as a habitual pot smoker.

Joy’s main conflicts are with abrasive Dean, because she thinks he’s toxic to the group, and he doesn’t offer the compassionate care that she thinks the abortion patients deserve. In real life, the Jane network never had anyone die from the abortion services that the Jane network provided. It was important for the Jane network to also have a reputation for offering meaningful counseling to abortion patients, which is something most underground abortion groups didn’t do at the time. Joy eventually finds a way to deal with Dean, but the movie doesn’t do a good-enough job in convincing viewers that neophyte Joy comes up with this solution, and that other more-experienced people in the Jane network (even whip-smart leader Virginia) couldn’t think of it earlier.

If viewers are wondering if any of the characters in “Call Jane,” are based on real people, there are similarities to some of the real-life people in the Jane network. Joy is probably based in part on Judith Arcana (also known as Judy Pildes), a prominent Jane network member married to an attorney. Virginia is no doubt based on Heather Booth, who is credited with founding the Jane network. Gwen is most likely based on Marie Leaner, the most prominent African American member of the Jane network.

If people want to learn more about the Jane network by watching a movie, the best one is the 2022 HBO documentary “The Janes,” directed by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes. (Arcana, Booth and Leaner are all interviewed in “The Janes” documentary.) Not as comprehensive as “The Janes” but worth seeking out is the 1995 documentary “Jane: An Abortion Service” (directed by Kate Kirtz and Nell Lundy), which had a limited release in theaters and was originally televised on PBS.

All of the cast members in “Call Jane” are very good in their roles, with Weaver being an obvious standout because of her acting talent and because Virginia has the strongest personality. “Call Jane” would have benefited from telling viewers a little bit more about the lives of Virginia and Gwen, who are the two Jane network characters other than Joy who get the most screen time and dialogue. In many ways, Virginia and Gwen are much more interesting than Joy, who comes across as a little bland, although Banks does an admirable job with the way the character was written. The biggest failing in “Call Jane” is not showing enough diversity in the abortion patients who get some kind of focus in the movie, when this diversity of abortion patients existed in real life for the Jane network.

Nagy’s direction of “Call Jane” is solid but occasionally disjointed. For example, the movie veers off into a very clumsily depicted and rushed plot development about Joy becoming the target of a police investigation, led by an undercover cop named Detective Chilmark (played by John Magaro), in a very short section of the movie. “Call Jane” should have spent more time on this plot development to bring more tension to the story. Before this plot development, the most tension that Joy gets from the Jane network is arguing with Dean.

“Call Jane” doesn’t have enough of anything that can be considered special or extraordinary filmmaking. And it’s not a movie that is going to change people’s minds about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. However, for viewers looking for a dramatic version of female empowerment taking place in the early years of the American feminist movement, “Call Jane” is a worthy option.

Roadside Attractions released “Call Jane” in U.S. cinemas on October 28, 2022. The movie was released on digital and VOD on December 6, 2022. “Call Jane” was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 13, 2022.

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