The top movies this weekend were Dumbo ($46 million), Us ($33 million), and Captain Marvel ($21 million), but did you know that just below that was an anti-abortion screed based on a discredited memoir partially financed by a Trump-loving pillow magnate?
“Faith-based” production house Pure Flix has seen their profits from individual movies fall slightly (as evidenced by respective lifetime grosses of God’s Not Dead 1, 2, and 3 declining from $60 million to $20 million to $5 million), perhaps as their message became slightly less divisive. Unplanned, written and directed by the God’s Not Dead 2 team of Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, and financed by the CEO of MyPillow (a self-described born again former crack addict) seems to be an attempt to get back to PureFlix’s roots, with a full-throated takedown of the usual religious right bogeymen — Planned Parenthood, Bill Gates, and (((George Soros))). It’s based on the memoir of a white woman who had two abortions before deciding no one else could have one and helped get the Planned Parenthood where she worked get shut down.
The divisiveness seems to be working. The film earned back its $6 million budget in its opening weekend and, according to one reviewer, “The crowd loudly applauded every time Planned Parenthood got its comeuppance onscreen, and laughed every time the pro-life activists in the story got doused with garden sprinklers and good-naturedly brushed it off like a prank.”
God knows I was curious. But I’ve already earned my purple heart for injuries suffered from Pure Flix movies watched in the line of movie reviewing. Unplanned seemed like a perfect opportunity for Plot Recreated with Reviews, where we attempt to piece together an entire movie using only expository quotes from reviews. Because some movies are much better heard than seen.
The Set Up
Narrated non-stop by its lead character, who promises you an uncomfortable experience (she’s right, but not necessarily for the reasons she implies), Unplanned is the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who began as pro-life, became pro-choice in college, volunteered for Planned Parenthood, became her clinic’s employee of the year in 2008, then changed her beliefs back to pro-life. [Forbes].
“My story isn’t a neat and tidy one,” says Johnson (played by Ashley Bratcher), one of several disclaimers she offers up front. [Detroit News]
The movie then flashes back eight years, and we witness several incidents that escalate in calamity: Abby’s first abortion (the result of a relationship with an older lout in her apartment building), then her second (after she marries and divorces the bum), induced with the RU-486 pill, which a woman at the clinic tells her will make it easy, with just some “light” bleeding. Instead, after ingesting the pill, Abby thinks she’s dying, as she’s wracked by excruciating pain and the bleeding turns out to be anything but light. [Variety]
Abby is drawn to Planned Parenthood at a college recruitment drive for its women’s health services [The Guardian]
…where a Planned Parenthood representative convinces Abby that the organization is all about reducing the number of abortions. [Variety]
It’s through Abby, the wide-eyed volunteer-turned-administrator looking to “keep abortion rare” that Unplanned gets us inside the demonic, bloodstained halls of America’s most heinous baby-killing factory. (One which the film says, and I swear I’m not making this up, is “backed by Soros”.) [The Guardian]
(“We discovered someone has cancer today!” is a weirdly cheery line in this film.) [The Guardian]
Cheryl, (played by Robia Scott, who early in her show business career danced the part of Pearl in Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls tour and is now, according to her bio, engaged in full-time ministry) [THR], whose rudeness is a dead giveaway that she just wants to harvest fetuses [AV Club], promotes Abby because she doesn’t cry upon first examining the remains of an aborted fetus. [THR]
When one young woman experiences a medical emergency, [Cheryl] makes sure that enough drugs are pumped into her that she won’t remember a thing. [THR]
“Abortion is what pays your salary!” Cheryl snaps, reminding Abby that “nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model.” [THR]
When Johnson protests that the goal of the organization should be to make the procedure as rare as possible, Cheryl [THR], who shows Abby aborted fetuses as if revealing the lost Ark, an evil grin fixed on her face [AV Club] delivers a speech comparing abortions to the high-profit “fries and soda” sold by hamburger joints. [THR]
“Fast-food outlets break even on their hamburgers. The french fries and soda are the low-cost, high-margin items. Abortion is our fries and soda!” If Abby wants to keep her 401K and health benefits, she’s gotta keep the abortions coming at all costs! [The Guardian]
In Too Deep
As Abby continues on her career track as a “counselor”, she’s really selling abortions like time shares. She gives dazed, emotionally fragile young women exploding offers on special rates and twists arms. Her boss gets furious when Abby gets pregnant, and needs to take time off. At first Abby argues with her conservative family about how the fetuses aren’t sentient, and couldn’t exist outside the body. Then she isn’t so sure. [The Guardian]
The change of heart comes slowly. Despite helping to process numerous women as they come in for abortions, she grows doubtful when we see her with her first black patient. The young woman’s family is crying out by the gate, yet she seems so cavalier entering the facility. It just had to be a black person that triggered Abby’s thoughts that pregnant women don’t know what’s good for them? [The Guardian]
When Abby is unexpectedly asked to assist with an abortion, the sight of the fetus on the ultrasound shocks her into reconsidering her career. [LA Times]
“Nobody ever said abortion was pretty,” Cheryl tells her. [Roger’s Movie Nation]
It’s a head-scratcher that seeing the ultrasound was somehow worse than seeing the fetal parts arranged into reconstructed form in a petri dish to ensure none have remained inside. [Forbes]
Diabolical modernity forces Abby to choose career and political correctness means her father and husband just have to sit there like beta male cucks and not say anything even though they know what she’s doing is wrong. (Why she and her husband are together is beyond me; all they do is fight about abortion!) [The Guardian]
The scowling, money-grubbing doctor who oversees abortions in the film’s Texas clinic has a wisecrack at the ready when he turns on the pump that sucks a fetus out of woman experiencing a “crisis pregnancy.”
“Beam me up, Scotty!” [Roger’s Movie Nation]
There are shots of blood pooling in the socks of abortion recipients post-op; an overhead view of Abby after her second (RU-486 induced) abortion, sprawled out in a bathroom covered in streaks of gore, as if she were the final-girl survivor in a slasher movie [AV Club]
…grisly abortion complications in which chunks of bloody fetal tissue slap against cold tile floors… [The Guardian]
Despite the many ghastly scenes of blood (so much blood), Abby has her epiphany observing cheap, risible CGI of an ultrasound. A fetus presents what could be misinterpreted as fear or pain during the procedure [The Guardian] a cartoonish sequence in which the rendering has the fetus’ hands grasping for dear life onto the uterine walls. [AV Club]
As Abby mugs, the callous doctor barks orders and the music swells just as the prayer group is mid-chant outside. We get corny closeups of medical tubes overflowing with what look like raspberry Icees. It’s enough to make anyone turn to a higher power, just to get this movie to end! [The Guardian]
When Abby resigns and tearfully seeks emotional support from kind-hearted pro-life activists Shawn (Jared Lotz) and Marilisa (Emma Elle Roberts), Cheryl initiates legal action, threatening Abby that she’s facing “one of the most powerful organizations in the planet,” whose donors include “Soros, Gates and Buffett.” [THR]
Eventually, though, men swoop in to rescue Abby: [Guardian] Abby’s patient, perfect spouse, Doug (Brooks Ryan), who’s always wiser than his wife, down to realizing she’s pregnant before she does [AV Club], the leader of the prayer group that shames women from the sidewalk, and a lawyer who protects Abby from her evil ex-boss when Planned Parenthood accuses her of spreading misinformation. [Guardian]
They’re all so serene about it; it’s as if you go pro-life and become one of the blessed, losing any anger or self-doubt. [Variety]
Adding unspoken weight to their argument is Abby’s angelic young daughter, who at one point worriedly asks her mother why there’s blood on her shoes. [THR]
Unplanned reaches its disingenuous nadir when a representative from 40 Days For Life explains that they’re videotaping their exchanges just in case someone wrongly accuses them of violence—they have to have the cars, and their license plates, in frame just for the record. What this explanation covers for is a long history of license plate numbers being recorded and used to locate mailing addresses, with women subsequently receiving letters from the protesters. [AV Club]
The film concludes in celebration. The local Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, closed. (True story!*) [The Guardian]
Abby went on to have seven more children. (Mazel tov.) She also converted to Catholicism, but that isn’t mentioned in the closing credits, as it doesn’t quite fit the Pure Flix narrative. [The Guardian]
It carries an on-screen message at its close, affirming the film “was created without the permission or cooperation of, and is in no way affiliated with, Planned Parenthood, its officers, directors, employees, subsidiaries or affiliates.” (In other news, you may be surprised to learn “Vice” was not made in partnership with the Bush White House.) [Detroit News]
Well, now you know. Aren’t you glad we took this journey together?
*Those notoriously deep-pocketed corporate ghouls at Planned Parenthood had to shut down the facility (along with two others that never performed abortions in the first place) in response to budget cuts and restrictive new regulations mandated by the Texas legislature, taking contraception and family planning services away from thousands of low-income women. Heartwarming!