As a man, I totally have the knowledge and perspective needed to shed light on what a woman does with her own body... yep.
My Personal History with Pure Flix
I feel that it is important to supply an honest understanding of my experience with this specific production studio, Pure Flix. The history that I’ve personally gone down with the “films” released by Pure Flix Productions have been anything except pleasurable. For the most part, they have released some fairly repugnant pieces of work in the last five years or so that I have seen. No, not every movie necessarily has been a travesty, but Pure Flix’s track record hasn’t been good, to say the least. Now I haven’t seen every single film released by this production company, but I have seen my fair share to know what a lot of this studio is all about; movies such as God’s Not Dead 1 and 2, Mom’s Night Out, and I’m Not Ashamed were more or less exploitation films that were nothing more than hateful, judgmental, or completely manipulative propaganda under the guise of the Christian name. Even though those films do not teach nor practice any true Christian morals in the slightest.
However, there have been some improvements occasionally from this studio that have tried harder in not being so immoral in their underlying messages; God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness wasn’t a great film by any means, but it was far more determined to spread an actual Christian theme rather than flip the bird to anyone who doesn’t call themselves a Christian like the previous two entries in the series. Pure Flix’s Samson, while nowhere near on the epic scale of the Cecil B. DeMille film (Samson and Delilah), was at least an okay-ish attempt on the old bible tale. So there has at least been an effort made on their part in the last year or two. That is… until now.
An Unplanned Slap in the Face
If I’m being completely honest, the new Ted Bundy film starring Zac Efron entitled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile really should have been the title of this film rather than Unplanned because that is what this feels like. This is a vile little film that fills every frame with manipulation that it is sickening to watch. Unplanned is not a film that is made by people trying to be genuine, this is not a film making any sort of effort to actually see both sides of the discussion of abortion, this isn’t even a film that was written from a woman’s perspective since the screenplay was actually written by two middle-aged men who also directed the movie. And yes, I know that it’s based on a book of the same name that is written by a woman who supposedly went through all of this; however, the novel also seems to contain several details that have been discredited by numerous sources as well.
We follow along the personal journey of Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher), who winds up being one of the youngest Planned Parenthood director in the U.S. Then one day she witnesses something so upsetting within the clinic that it forces her to change her whole perspective on abortions as a whole, resulting in her resignation from Planned Parenthood to become a pro-life activist.
To Touch on the Elephant in the Room
Yes, I know. I’m a man reviewing a film about a woman’s choice of abortion. I have no place in the debate as it is none of my business on what a woman chooses to do with her own body. That’s also kind of the point of my whole perspective, it’s none of my business. Nor is it anyone else’s for that matter, especially the two men who wrote this movie. Of course, Unplanned completely sidelines that whole subject basically to say that it shouldn’t be the woman’s choice whether to choose to abort the pregnancy or not. The topic of abortion, to these writers, is strictly bad and all women should all feel bad for it. Plain and simply put, that is pretty much what this movie is trying to get across. This movie does not care about what possible legitimate reasons one may have to abort, they practically make it look like a forced act on these women in almost every case of abortion, they depict the Planned Parenthood clinic as nothing more than corporate monsters that only want to abort all children around the globe like their some sort of super villain organization while completely ignoring the countless other health services that they actually provide for women.
Every pro-life Christian is portrayed in this movie as being the absolute most level-headed person that has no other emotions besides sheer happiness and sometimes sadness when the writing demands drama. The writers hold no shame whatsoever in plastering their bias for all to see because sadly, the audience that wants to see this movie does not care. Anyone who enjoys this movie only relishes the fact that Unplanned is basically giving pro-choice supporters the middle finger while it claims to be ‘turning the other cheek’. I’m sorry, but that’s bull sh*t. This movie is not turning its cheek towards anything, this is outright saying loud and clear to all women that have aborted or are thinking about abortion is in the wrong and they are terrible people for it. Again, ignoring the fact that it is the woman’s choice and is literally no one else’s business as to what she chooses to do with her own body. Ignoring all of the possibilities as to why a woman may have to choose this route, instead it is painted as a black and white picture of ‘pro-life is right and pro-choice is wrong’. Simple as that to them.
Ignoring the Themes, How Does It Hold Up?
It doesn’t, this movie is still a mediocre production regardless of the moral of the story. The moral only makes it all the more repulsive. The only problem I have now is, where to begin? I guess I’ll start with what is objectively the most broken aspects about the film itself to what I personally find to be the most grating… Oh joy!
Narratively speaking, there is some seriously disjointed structure going on here. The film opens in what I assume to be present-day, after it firmly plasters the text ‘Based on a true story,' of course, introducing us to Abby Johnson and her sitcom husband and daughter. The very next scene is Abby witnessing the ‘horrors’ of an abortion for the very first time ever. This shows what appears on the sonogram to be practically a fully developed baby that is fighting against this tube within the womb that sucks the fetus up and throws it into a grinder. From the very start, you can already feel the manipulation in this film with the implausibility of this scene alone, and it is far from being the only one.
Right after that it cuts to eight years earlier where Abby first joins the Planned Parenthood clinic… so immediately I’m wondering as to how after eight years of working at this clinic did this woman not see an abortion performed before. Although to be fair, the abortion performed in the opening sequence was definitely farfetched. However, the movie attempts to make it out as a normal procedure and that is the exact way that it totally transpires every time… that is not how it works. Moving on, after about ten minutes of following Abby along on her first days of working at the clinic we cut to another title card that establishes to be going back yet another two years… Seriously? We’re not even twenty minutes in and the film is breaking its plot thread. This is not a professional screenplay, quit it.
Anyways, then we follow what is now taking place ten years before the opening scene where Abby not only had one abortion, but two! That’s right, this woman who supposedly had two abortions of her own and worked at a clinic that performs abortions for eight years where she legitimately saw the actual aftermath of it all, somehow is randomly shaken by watching a procedure occur. There is a scene where Abby is inspecting a dead fetus as she is completely fascinated by it, yet somehow can’t stand the sight of a dead one later on. Where is the logic here?! Honestly when the film does finally catch back up to the present, over an hour in, with the context of what’s going on with her boss it all comes across less that Abby genuinely wants to be a pro-life activist and more that she wants to spite her bosses that were heckling her at the time. But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.
Gotta Go Back In Time
Following along the plot thread from ten years prior, we see Abby in her “rebellious” days as she puts it. “Rebellious” means that Pure Flix is only comfortable with showing this chick date a guy who’s ten years older than her… scandalous. Turns out that this guy gets her pregnant when they first start dating and they depict this event in a way that makes it seem like he tricked her into getting an abortion rather than her making the actual decision herself. Then this couple, sometime later, get married only to divorce soon after. Unfortunately, the divorce came a smidge too late as Abby was already pregnant again. This time making the decision fully herself as she wanted no connection to her ex-husband.
Some time passes and we catch up to the point when Abby is working at the clinic, which her parents and her new fiancé are very vocal about how much they are against her working there. Cut to Abby and her new fiancé’s wedding, this time Abby’s father is grinning ear to ear instead of scowling like he had at Abby’s first wedding. The dialog used tries to sway the opinion that the father truly believes that Abby simply picked the right guy this time around, but because of the previous scene with how her father discovers how her fiancé is totally against the idea of abortion, it feels less that he genuinely believes this is a perfect match for Abby and more that the father simply likes the fact that this guy is pro-life on the subject. That’s it.
Gotta Go Back to the Future
Eventually, the film cuts to a title card that reads, “Four Years Later”. Not entirely sure from which point on the ‘four years later’ since it gets a little messy, but that’s the least of my concerns. For a while after her second wedding, we the audience, are watching a string of scenes that ultimately feel like the most biased material that these writers could come up with. The villain is something that I will get into later, but these scenes that include multiple abortions throughout the years that Abby is involved with are given such an uncomfortably one-sided perspective. Creating a revolving door of women where we learn nothing about them amidst montages like it’s supposed to be some sort of cheery motivational sequence when really we’re watching Abby rush through an afternoon of abortion appointments before a severe storm hits their town. That was an awkward tone for sure.
When we don’t see Abby at the clinic, we usually are seeing her family constantly berating her and condescending to her about her choice to work at this clinic only because they perform abortions once a week. Again, ignoring everything else that they provide the other six days out of the week. Her family gets extremely annoying as they are completely judgmental of this woman’s career path, all because they disagree with this one aspect about the clinic and never acknowledge the other good deeds that she and the clinic have done for women. Because almost every scene that Abby shares with her family always leads to them disapproving of her career and her trying to justify it to them, it gets so tedious and irritating to sit through the same discussion again and again. Especially since this is supposed to take place over the course of eight years, so after eight years of them whining about it, I’m just sitting here saying to myself, “Shut the hell up, it’s not your life, it’s her job. You people literally do not have to deal with it at all so I have no clue why this is such a big frikkin’ deal. Piss off and let her be happy with her job, you overcritical jerkoffs!” Like, I get it. They don’t like her job, but here’s the thing, it’s HER job. It’s HER choice where she wants to work. It’s HER prerogative to do with her career as she sees fit. She does not have to appease her parents or her husband as to where she should work, so why should I side with these people that won’t even let their own daughter/wife enjoy what she does for a living? The answer is there is no reason, these are rude and inconsiderate people that I end up loathing.
In the last act, the movie finally catches up with itself as we are back at the very beginning with Abby witnessing the tube and blender abortion method. Sure. Turns out that while this is going on inside the clinic, right outside is the peaceful protesters that we’ve seen throughout the movie that seemingly have nothing else going on in their lives for the last eight years other than to pretty much live right outside this clinic to turn expecting mothers away from Planned Parenthood’s services. I’m being serious, the only time we ever see these specific Christian protesters are right outside the clinic and that’s about it until the last fifteen minutes or so when the movie actually shows them away from Planned Parenthood for once. Anyways, during the blender scene, the protesters see a man walking out of the building with a giant blue bin. Can you guess what that’s supposed to be filled with? The protesters ask for the man to wheel it over to them so they may “pray over it”. He hesitantly obliges to their request but says to hold off a second since he has to grab the second baby body parts bin too. Sure. This all amounts to the miracle of Abby seeing the error of her ways and choosing to officially be a pro-life activist.
Once that is all said and done, everything seems about wrapped up. Except it’s not as there still remains another twenty whole minutes of the movie left… I about cried when I saw that. Twenty whole minutes needed to be included in order to show the lawsuit that Planned Parenthood filed against Abby and her fellow protester friends… only to be immediately resolved. That was totally necessary. Seriously, the last twenty minutes are nothing more than Abby changing her mind on abortions. The EVIL boss lady attacks her through legal means and acts like she’s the head of the mafia. The case gets thrown out in court within a matter of minutes. There’s a ‘heartfelt, motivational’ speech at the end about how wrong Abby was about abortions. The Planned Parenthood clinic gets shut down, resulting in this overly cheesy sitcom dialog that goes on right before the demolition worker pulls down the sign… riveting.
Then the film graciously ends with a text across the screen reading, “This movie was not approved by the Planned Parenthood organization”. My first, immediate thought that passed through my mind was, “No duh! I never would have guessed that the movie about making Planned Parenthood look like a bunch of monsters wasn’t approved by them. What a twist!” I mean, are you kidding me right now? What point were these filmmakers trying to make with that? That’s like saying Ronald McDonald doesn’t approve of a movie that portrays him as a serial killer. No sh*t! Get out of here, I’m done with your bologna!
These are some fairly untrained actors, I’m not going to lie. Everyone is delivering their lines like they are reading it for the very first time right in front of the camera. No one shares a semblance of charisma or chemistry with one another. Abby’s family feels like they barely know or speak to this woman, let alone are related to her. Abby’s second husband, Doug (Brooks Ryan), and her daughter Grace (Andee Grace Burton) feel right out of a bad sitcom. Reading their dialog as ‘cutsie’ as possible, most of the time with that stereotypical overacting and groan-worthy punch lines in an attempt to make morons chuckle. The daughter, Grace, never comes across as genuinely cute; she always feels manufactured to be as ‘adorable’ as possible, except it’s not adorable, it’s obnoxious. The same goes for Doug, Abby’s parents, and the Christian protesters; they aren’t likable or charming, they’re cynically hollow shells of characters that don’t feel real.
I have no idea how this person is in real life, the real Abby Johnson. For all I know, this movie takes significant liberties with this character and leaves out major details. I don’t know, that’s quite possible. I’m strictly going to be talking about the character here that is presented within the film, and this Abby Johnson is an idiot. She went through two abortions herself and worked for this clinic for damn near a decade, yet somehow this event shown at the opening is what turns her perspective around? It makes no sense.
Not to mention that the actress really isn’t all that good in the role, her performance is just bland. Not notably terrible, it seems like she’s trying, I just feel that she doesn’t have the acting chops to pull off injecting enough personality into her character. Although there were moments that called for her to emote, sometimes she did okay and other times it was not working one bit. I won’t put all the blame on her since these directors have proven themselves to be pretty awful at their jobs, as well as the fact that the script wasn’t doing her any favors with its material. At the same time, she never rose above acting as though she were in a sitcom, along with the rest of the cast members.