Movie Review: Pure Flix raises the propaganda stakes with “Unplanned”


“Nobody ever said abortion was pretty,” the cynical, corporate Planned Parenthood director (Robia Scott) tells her protege, Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher) in “Unplanned.”

Indeed. “Unplanned” shows you everything from the ultrasounds necessary to properly carry out the medical procedure, to the actual “vacuuming” of the uterus — with as much blood and gore and violence as its fevered creators can imagine.

If ever a subject deserved an R-rating in an explicit film treatment, it’s this.

It’s more pure propaganda from Pure Flix, this time about the subject that has roiled America for the better part of a century — for 50 years of Catholic backed illegality as women’s rights groups fought them, and for 50 years after the famous Supreme Court case, Roe vs. Wade, that took abortion out of back alleys and into medical practices across America.

It’s a heavy-handed sermon pitting clear-eyed, clear-skinned and perfectly “reasonable” protesters against those profiteering, murderous “corporate” butchers at Planned Parenthood.

Sure, the faithful bring up George Soros, the favorite rich whipping boy (with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, also mentioned) of the Sold Our Souls to Foreigner-Founded Fox News set.

Women are its villains, including the hypocritical opportunist whose book it is based on — Abby Johnson. In incessant voice over narration she (Bratcher) insists “This could change everything.”

It already has. Abortion has so divided the country as to make the allegedly God-fearing endorse a criminal, pathological liar and whoremonger into the White House, where his Kentucky and South Carolina Senate minions can steal Supreme Court seats and at long last return control of women’s bodies to a theocratic leaning State and the Red State pinheads who back them.

Like-minded judges have lied their way into the courts, railroaded there by the most cynical politicians the country has ever produced — men who are not men in any meaningful sense of the word.

You did this. Take a bow.

So yes, “Unplanned,” about a Planned Parenthood clinic director (Johnson, played by Batchner) who “saw the light” after having two abortions herself, and facilitating thousands at Ground Zero for careless sex (apparently), Houston, Texas, has the feel of a victory lap for the myopically self-righteous.

Filmmakers Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon pound their points home like Madison Avenue vets, worried if they don’t use a ham for a cudgel, their audience might miss their meaning.

Medical professionals and birth control counselors are to a one, callous, unfeeling beasts. 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!”

The screaming, name-calling, poster-waving protestors — the ones who make the evening news — are lightly glossed over and passed over in lieu of fresh-faced “40 Days for Life” preachers, who range in shrillness from passive aggressive to aggressive, smug in the assured rightness of their cause, dealing from a stacked deck in every argument the movie deigns to depict.


At this stage of the debate, nobody is going to have his or her mind changed by a lop-sided screed on the Big Screen, or a lopsided review ridiculing their dull, uncharismatic and colorless actors (save for Scott), pedestrian direction and script that is more rhetoric than dialogue. Voice-over narration is the laziest, most-heavy-handed cinematic storytelling device there is, and “Unplanned” is wallpapered with it.

Plainly, they were worried about being too subtle.

The fact that the movie is unintentionally patriarchal, showing a clinic run by and for women, with even the fanatical men baying at the fences surrounding it depicted as at least being “right,” is worth a laugh.

I used to visit an allergy clinic located next to a women’s health care provider in one state where I lived. The scary cranks shrieking at everybody coming in the door there were far enough down the rabbit hole that I was never able to hear of a doctor’s murder or the motives of an Atlanta Olympics bomber after that without saying, “Yeah, nobody saw THAT coming.”

Pure Flix, the Scottsdale studio that released the angry Christian victimhood Jeremiads “God’s Not Dead I and II,” is behind this one. They weren’t satisfied showing the women escaping problem pregnancies as weeping, the people who do the work as saleswomen meeting “quotas.” They use the rhetoric and images of violence to encourage violence. And they will be the first to go “Who, us?” when violence results.

For the sentient, the film’s “truth” in depicting Abby (a real person, her widely challenged –OK, debunked — book was the basis for this) suggests the holes one can most easily drive a truck through in her “true story.” The Texas-sized cow-patty of contradiction and hypocrisy doesn’t end with “I had two abortions, you can’t have any.” Abby, we’re led to believe, a middle class white Texan in a two-income home (her husband is, laughably, anti-abortion and stridently so) is helped to find another job by the zealots protesting outside her clinic’s fences.

Black and brown women? You’re on your own, kids. The abortion debate was racist long before Pat Robertson made that nakedly obvious.

For the blinded by faith? I just hope Pure Flix hasn’t gone out and actually made a violent, self-righteous propaganda film that incites its fans to violence. It’s not like there’s no precedent for that concern.

There’s blood all over the screen, here. Don’t be surprised if it spills off that screen.


MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing/bloody images

Cast: Ashley Bratcher, Brooks Ryan, Robia Scott, Jared Lotz

Credits: Written and directed by Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon . A Pure Flix release.

Running time: 1:46

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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5 Responses to Movie Review: Pure Flix raises the propaganda stakes with “Unplanned”

  1. Rob Osborne says:

    Right-wing agitprop garbage. It’ll deservedly sink without a trace

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