As it turns out, writing Carol does not translate to directing a feature as strong and sentimental as it. Phyllis Nagy finds out with Call Jane. Putting the phone down on Call Jane is a little excessive, the film does nothing wrong. It just does little right. There it is, the slow crawls and the flashing sirens outside a door that channels clear distance between protest and power. Anti-Vietnam momentum and the horrors of that war are used as a filter, a mere backdrop. The whole world is watching but whatever it is they are watching, although clear to those brushing up on their history beforehand, is somewhat tame and unclear. Elizabeth Banks’ leading role makes the intrigue and wonder of such a reason clear but Nagy has not the time to detail it.
Instead her focus lies in the social paradigms of the time and abrupt changes to the pace see her real point move ahead. The clanging introduction of the Jane Collective is clearly necessary to the story but is handled with little grace. Call Jane cannot bide much time, it wants to get to the meat of its story, the real struggle of women during the 1960s. Nagy relies on how worryingly pertinent this plot still is. A little flat, a tad dull, but Call Jane is heaved out and up through its relevancy. Slow, methodical and very tied to a tired language from the 60s that is needed for the credence of the time but feels bloated and unusual in execution. Still, the core of it is a touching and emotional story that pries at the very real worries that continue for so many today.
Call Jane does that well at the very least. Another fine biopic slumps out and does little beyond present and preserve a message. Banks and Sigourney Weaver are steady hands as expected, but this is what happens when you bank Scrubs and Alien stars. There is an emotional core which Call Jane is sometimes fearful of utilising to its full advantage. Tepid moments and the grainy filter that lies over the top are a constant back and forth, the latter an interesting switch-up for the visuals but the former a constantly stagnant and underwhelming response to the time. Most of the biopics settling into this post-Vietnam conclusiveness have struggled with that. The Glorias did and the less said about The Greatest Beer Run Ever the better. It is not social importance that guides these films at times but a sense of nostalgia for brutality and how that can be used as reflection.
Nagy manages reflection of that sort from time to time, the passing and broader strokes of nice direction and the homely feel scattered in with rejection and dejection is an interesting build. Nicely balanced in those important moments. Call Jane settles in well with the revolutions that picked up and plodded along during the 1960s and on, and the editing techniques used, although simple, give it quite the character. Plenty of charm comes from the little details and that is the real striking momentum for this. Weaver and Banks are solid draws, the grainy filter that lingers over the top of each scene for Call Jane gives it that sense of place. But that sense of place is muddled, a little dull and at times absent-minded. At least it pulls itself around for a satisfying look at the time.