A little over a year ago, Never Rarely Sometimes Always was released. That film, centering on the labyrinth that is procuring an abortion in America for a young girl, tackled the issue with a frank yet sensitive tone. Clearly angry about the situation, filmmaker Eliza Hittman used an emotional yet simple story to impeccably convey her message. A year later, the exact opposite has arrived in Roe v. Wade, an anti-abortion screed that barely qualifies as cinema. Poorly written, indifferently acted, and filmed with the thoughtfulness of a sledgehammer, this would-be true story is among the worst things I’ve had the misfortune of laying my eyes on.
Roe v. Wade wants to be in the same mold as what Pure Flix churns out. While it’s just as bad, it doesn’t even hum with the feeling that it’s made by true believers. Awful flicks like The Case for Christ, God’s Not Dead, and Unplanned are absolute dreck, but they’re made solely to please a specific audience. Quite literally, they’re preaching to the converted. Here, this film wants to claim it’s a more fair and balanced take, and it’s somehow all the worse for it. Clearly, it’s playing dirty pool with the issue of abortion, as well as the landmark Supreme Court case. However, it’s not only a miscarriage of the facts and the issue, it’s just ineptly made, to boot.
Purporting to tell the “true story” of the landmark legal decision, using the story of abortion doctor turned anti-abortion crusader Bernard Nathanson (Nick Loeb) to tie it all together. The co-founder of National Association For The Repeal Of Abortion Laws, he and Lawrence Lader (Jamie Kennedy) made untold amounts of money turning the procedure into a business. Taken to court by evangelists like Mildred Jefferson (Stacey Dash), the initial ruling goes in their favor, setting up a showdown in the Supreme Court, obstensibly over the pregnancy of Norma McCorvey (Summer Joy Campbell), aka Jane Roe.
When the case gets to the highest court in the land, Bernard is still on one side of the coin. It isn’t until after the Justices (played by Corbin Bernsen, Steve Guttenberg, Jon Voight, and others) are shown making all manner of of rationales for their vote that Bernard sees the light. Then, all of a sudden, he’s as clearly on the other side of the issue as anyone. While groups like Planned Parenthood are purported to be monsters, he’s of course someone on the up and up. It’s all so thinly drawn it’s impossible to take seriously, if it weren’t already dubious in its factuality.
The cast is, to be kind, uninspired. Nick Loeb, for some ungodly reason, saw himself as the nominal lead, and he’s easily the worst in show. Anytime you hear his voiceover, you want to beg him for another take. Then, there’s the scene where his central character finally realized the error of his ways. The breakdown will play closer to broad comedy than heartbreaking emotion. The rest of the cast are, at best, bored, clearly involved for the CPAC bragging rights, as opposed to the roles they’re essaying. Whether they’re playing ideologically similar characters or the opposite end of the political spectrum, it’s all phoned in the same. In addition to the cast mentioned above, supporting players include the motley crew of William Forsythe, Greer Grammer, Tomi Lahren, Joey Lawrence, Mike Lindell (yes, the My Pillow nut), and many more.
The filmmaking from Cathy Allyn and Nick Loeb is the biggest problem. The script they penned with Ken Kushner is laughable, while the direction is amateurish. Ironically, despite hammering their points home with a hammer, the lip service they pay to the Pro Choice and Women’s Movements actually come off as the better arguments. Of course they cherry-pick facts and omit what doesn’t work (conveniently forgetting that Jane Roe confessed at the end of her life that her about-face on the issue was something she did for money), but that’s all assumed here. The true sin is that you could make a compelling film about the case. Roe v. Wade doesn’t need to be a conservative or liberal parable. Just make a movie that caters to the complexity of the issue and the arguments on both sides. Allyn and Loeb aren’t interested in that, whatsoever, despite what they may have claimed over the years while getting the flick made.
Roe v. Wade is not just sure to be the worst film of 2021, it’s among the worst films of the past several years. Barely a movie, it’s not even particularly coherent as conservative propaganda. Without question, it fails on every single level. Cinema is tangibly worse for its existence. If I see something worse this year, I’ll truly be despondent about the state of the industry. For now, let’s just pretend this never existed. You certainly never have to see it. Consider this my service to you all. I saw it so you don’t have to.