Abortions on screen freak me out. I think they can be done in ways where you don’t see much, and they’re still powerful. I think back to two movies from my youth, that were considered crazy teen comedies — Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Last American Virgin. Just seeing the female leads preparing and going in, was enough to make you realize what a big deal this was. Watching an entire movie about it, like this one…is just…well, not entertaining.
With movie theatres all closed, this is going straight to streaming video (it’s going to be available on most outlets).
Writer/director Eliza Hittman follows Autumn through her mundane life and tough decisions. She comes from a working class family in Eastern Pennsylvania. The parents watch TV and drink beer, occasionally harassing the pet dog. When the dad is wrestling with the dog and making sly glances at Autumn, you wonder if they’re implying that he could be the father of her baby. In fact, we never do find out who the father is. After a talent show, she throws a drink on a kid in a restaurant. When Autumn is interviewed by one of the Planned Parenthood employees, we get the impression that it’s a classmate who is involved with a bunch of girls.
Autumn works as a cashier at a grocery store, where she has to deal with a boss that’s sexually harassing her in a rather odd way (he kisses her hand multiple times when she turns her cash in through a small window).
It’s interesting how at the local clinic, the staff is pro-life, but it doesn’t feel heavy-handed. Although it is odd that an employee would say, “Look at your beautiful baby” when you’d have to realize that a 17-year-old girl isn’t going to be thrilled by the prospect of a sonogram showing her baby.
On a subsequent visit, she’s shown a video of the horrors of abortion. Ah. So the movie does have an agenda.
Autumn brings her co-worker cousin Skyler along with her to New York, where she can get an abortion without her parents being notified.
I’ve seen a few critics talk about the loving bond between the cousins, but all I kept thinking about, was how her cousin stole money from the store cash register to pay for this trip. Perhaps audiences are just supposed to accept this dire circumstance or mean bosses, and forgive them for that. Whatever.
The girls contend with subways, busses, train stations, and every male being a nuisance to them. I was fine with that take on their story, but I had bigger problems with the minimal dialogue. It made watching this movie about as interesting as a bus ride with a 17-year-old who has nothing of interest to say.
Now, I wasn’t as big a fan of Eight Grade as everyone else was, but at least there were things happening in that movie that were interesting to watch. Audiences aren’t going to have the patience to sit through this.
This is the third movie from Eliza Hittman, and it’s a shame that her picture — which won a special jury award for “Neo-Realism” at Sundance — isn’t going to get a proper theatre release. That’s probably good news for you folks, because this abortion story is the type of movies critics praise (it’s getting 98% good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes), and everyone else just shakes their heads or shrugs. My wife and I did the latter.
My favorite thing about the movie were the song choices. Whether that was Autumn singing the ‘60s girl group The Exciters tune “He’s Got the Power” or the karaoke choices characters made. Those songs would be “Wishing” by A Flock of Seagulls and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and the Pacemakers [side note: I wonder how many members of that early ‘60s Liverpool band actually have pacemakers now].
Don’t let pretentious critics that think these types of film are art, convince you it’s worth seeing. It’s a very dark, dull, disappointing story to experience.
1 ½ stars out of 5.