Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Abortion in Film: Two Lovers

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Michelle, a woman who is dating a partner at the law firm where she works, a man who is a married father. Joaquin Phoenix (hot!), plays Leonard, Michelle’s neighbor, who is falling in love with Michelle, even though he’s dating another lady, Sandra. Michelle and Leonard start spending more time together and one day she calls him because she’s sick and needs to go the hospital. At the hospital she finds out she is pregnant from the married guy she’s dating, and she’s having a miscarriage. The doctor performs a D & C (abortion) to complete the miscarraige. Despite making plans to take off with Leonard for San Francisco, Michelle ends up staying with the married guy, and Leonard proposes to Sandra. The End.

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How did Rorschach get so dark, moody and cold? When he was a child his mother, a whore apparently, yelled at him: “I should have had an abortion!” That would do it.

On the flip side, Laurie Jupiter finds out her real father is not who she thinks he is. Instead, it is Edward Blake, The Comedian, who once brutally beat her mother Sally Jupiter and attempted to rape her. Supposedly, though she marries another, she “loves” the Comedian, their relationship is “complicated” and their supposedly consensual-sex years later produces daughter Laurie, her “true gift” and the reason she never regrets her affair with the man who once assaulted her.

So, let me get this straight. A whore does not get her abortion, regrets continuing her pregnancy and produces a cold, calculating killer. A female guardian is brutalized by her compatriot, has sex with him years later and produces a daughter who grows into a sexy, adventurous do-gooder.

I know its a comic-book thing, but really, why is abortion even part of this dialogue? Both women got pregnant scandalously by men other than their husbands and both had babies (no abortions). But, to appropriately portray one as evil and the other as good, they use how the woman takes to her pregnancy and motherly duties as the true test of her character, and thus an explanation for their child’s path. The woman who rejects her motherly instincts, who goes so far as to say she wishes she had an abortion is evil, while the other one withstands beatings and attempted rape all to find her perfect role as mother.

Riiigghhttttttt….listen up ladies! Love comes with pain and its all worth it in the end! Just take it!

Obviously, I am joking. But one minute I’m writing about how Rhianna is taking the abuse of Chris Brown and the next minute I am seeing a movie that glosses over abuse with words like complicated and sends the message, clearly and specifically (i.e., Dr. Manhattan’s speech on Mars) that taking abuse is noble.


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I haven’t actually seen this one, but The Mighty, Mighty, Monkseal has, so here’s what the seal has to say:

“Four Months…” actually really focuses, not on the woman having the abortion, but on her best friend and University room-mate [are we seeing a theme, readers, in how abortion stories are told? – see my post on revolutionary road], who has to go about the business of getting the whole sorry affair set up, and who suffers an awful lot of consequences as a result of your friend’s lack of street-smarts or self-confidence. That’s not to say that the film stints on showing the horrors of backstreet abortion (really doesn’t, particularly during the half-hour sequence that can probably be best summed up with the phrase “foetus in a handbag”), but this is really a film, not just about how abortion affects those who terminate their pregnancies, but those around them.

Especially if the woman having the abortion has decided to set up arrangements with one of the most terrifying scene presences I’ve ever seen, and who frankly makes Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men look a little bit panto villain by comparison. From the moment he appears on screen to the moment he leaves, you can tell, even though his demeanour is generally that of an avuncularly professional family doctor, that “Mr Baby” is kind of the devil. The sense of palpable unease as he goes through his “negotiations” with his “clients” ratchets up piece by piece to quite an unbearable level, before climaxing in quite the most disturbing 15 minutes of cinema I’ve seen in a while.

Certianly he’s one of the more memorable screen villains of our time.

Apart from that, the film is carried pretty much on the back of the female lead, especially in one dinner party sequence, (which will probably be your own personal Hinge Factor as to whether the film is intelligent, brave, brilliant film-making, or pretentious hollow, plot-less dreck) in which the camera is trained directly on her face for about 20- 25 minutes. (Take THAT, Nicole Kidman in Birth!) And carry it she does, with just the right mixture of self-confident ballsiness and slowly increasing tension and incoherent terror.

Overall, it’s a very good film indeed, although yeah. Not exactly a light watch.

Because… did I mention “foetus in a handbag”?

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Before I started this blog, I’d been wishing I had one for every time I was minding my own business, watching TV or reading a book only to get hit with a “surprise” abortion. I hate surprise abortions. I spend a lot of time thinking about abortion, hearing about abortion, talking about abortion, and writing about abortion, so when I am looking for entertainment, abortion is not what I want, and when it shows up, I’m surprised. My inner voice usually says something like “Nooooo, really??? Does this story really have to have an abortion in it? Can’t I get a break?” Nope!

Since I’ve had this blog and now have the opportunity to record every time this happens – every time an abortion story takes place in media or culture – I have become increasingly amazed and a bit perplexed by how often abortion is used as a plot point. I guess abortion has everything a good story needs: drama, crisis, secrets, passion, sex, etc.. And because it is common (and good stories must offer something close to reality) yet still shrouded in secrecy, writers have no fear or concern about being held accountable for the impact of their stories on those who have lived it: women who have had abortions, and their loved ones. What is perplexing is how rarely abortion stories are told through the voice of the woman herself: it is told by the cops who find her dead body, the older brother who rescues his sister, or by the doctor who judges (or saves) his patient. Abortion is the plot, the drama, the taboo, and the woman is manipulated to tell the most dramatic story possible, inviting outsiders to look in, but rarely inviting them to stand beside her.

Revolutionary Road plays with all of the above: abortion is a major plot point, the climax, and manipulated to the greatest effect, while simultaneously inviting, then repelling you from the woman herself. You feel for her, you loather her, you are glad you are not her. You promise yourself you will never be her.

Basic way abortion is used in Revolutionary Road: Kate Winslet and Leo DeCaprio play a couple stuck in suburban hell, who dream of more exciting lives, but just can’t seem to step outside themselves to follow their dreams. Their first pregnancy was an accident, a mistake, which lands them in the suburbs with their first kid. The second child comes. They are increasingly dissatisfied with their lives. They come up with a big exciting plan to make their friends jealous of how awesome they are – they are moving the family to Paris…then, well they are themselves and lots of things happen that make you realize they’re not going to pull it off, they will not escape. Then she gets pregnant. She wants to self-abort, knows how from friends, he is repulsed and doesn’t want to. Weeks pass. He is relieved that she does not abort, they have huge fight. They drink and smoke a lot, all the time. She feels stuck and angry and well, you just don’t want to be her, living her life, you get it. You wouldn’t sign up for what she is or what she has. She doesn’t want it either. She aborts, alone. The overwhelming feeling I get is of sadness, and aloneness and isolation, and how unbearably awful that must feel, to feel that alone and that helpless. It’s a bit bloody. She goes to the hospital. They can’t stop the bleeding. She dies. The movie ends.

What did I learn? Kate and Leo are both terrific actors. Never argue with your partner while you’re wasted. Don’t move to the suburbs. I realized the most empathetic stories about abortion I’ve seen involve abortions in the olden days – abortions done at home, or illegal, or by a super creepy doctor or a really nice one – but rarely do we see or hear the stories of the women who have them now, legal, in a healthcare facility of some kind, with a caring partner, friend or family member by her side.

Actually, the most poignant thing for me about the movie is that it showed that when Leo’s character finally felt like he had nothing to lose, he went with his gut and his own bold ideas at his lame job and that this is when he finally found success. When we take the risk, we can open up opportunities for ourselves.

I was not looking forward to the movie, I must admit. Mixing abortion with entertainment and all, but on my way there, the biggest, most beautiful rainbow I ever saw arched over the theater. I literally exclaimed outloud: “oh!” and began snapping photos. I walked into the movie feeling much lighter.


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