Walking into Roe v. Wade a viewer would think the film is about the historical impact of the controversial 1971-73 case—a straight forward historical picture.
This is not the case.
Roe v. Wade opens years after Dr. Bernard Nathanson (Nick Loeb), a well known abortionist turned anti-abortion doctor, has left his practice as he sits down with a newspaperman to talk about his story. There the audience is given backstory into why Dr. Nathanson became an obstetrician-gynecologist and then burst into 1970 when women in America were arguing for their rights to their bodies.
Nathanson, Larry Lader (Jamie Kennedy) of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) and Cyril Means (Octavious Prince), with Planned Parenthood, meet in New York to discuss their reasons to have abortion legalized in America and they want to have Betty Friedan (Lucy Davenport), a well known activist, on their team.
Throughout the film Dr. Nathanson struggles with the idea of abortion, it is clear something else is on his mind.
Norma McCorvey (Summer Joy Campbell) is persuaded to join the case as a pregnant woman looking for an abortion. To the world she becomes known as "Jane Roe." Sarah Weddington (Greer Grammer), with Texas House of Representatives, serves as her representation.
On the side of pro-life are James T. McHugh (Tom Guiry), a Catholic priest who spoke out against abortion, Ellen McCormack (Mindy Robinson), an anti-abortion politician, Dr. Mildred Jefferson (Stacey Dash), a surgeon who was the first African American to graduate from Harvard Medical and Robert Byrn (Joey Lawrence), a law professor. Henry Wade (James DuMont) shows up later in the film.
For the Supreme Court Judges, several are against abortion, but are pressured or persuaded to change their votes, according to the film.
Roe v. Wade is directed by Nick Loeb and Cathy Allyn, a directorial debut for both, and covers an uncomfortable topic but it is also an uncomfortable film to watch. Granted, back in the 1970's, a lot surrounded the Roe v. Wade case and to fit that in under two hours is a tall order.
The film feels rushed trying to cover as much history as possible. The performances, at times, remove you from the experience. Lines seem hesitant or forced. And in the most important moments the performances do not translate. There are a few passable performances, however. Just not enough to win over a balanced crowd. Hats off to Stacey Dash, Mindy Robinson, Tom Guiry, Jamie Kennedy, Greer Grammer and the cast of judges.
Both arguments for and against abortion are represented throughout, though the scale does tip ultimately toward one side.
Going in, hopes were higher for this film. Coming out, I'm wondering what happened.
Roe v. Wade is now available for preorder on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/roe-v-wade/id1559069549?ls=1.