Picks and Pans Review: Choices
When you hear that a network's made a movie about the Controversy of Controversies, abortion, you have to figure that they've found some trick to keep themselves out of trouble. The trick: Two women get accidentally pregnant; one gets an abortion, the other doesn't. Before pulling its rabbit test out of the hat, Choices takes a long while to introduce the players. George C. Scott is a lawyer so ethical he quit his firm because it defended mafiosi, and later he's a judge so sensitive he spends a night in jail "to know what it's like." He's so respectable he wears suits even while whipping up omelettes. He is the Voice of Old Values. Now meet his daughter, Melissa Gilbert, who gets pregnant by her boyfriend and plans to have an abortion. Her father objects. "I think there is a certain sanctity in the sexual union that produces a child," George says (proving that only he can deliver a line like that and live to tell about it). Now meet George's young second wife, Jacqueline Bisset. She and George argue about the issue over the breakfast table—using a book on medical ethics for reference. Jackie supports Melissa's decision to have an abortion; George won't. So the sides are clear. But wait: The show's not over. Now Jackie finds out that she's pregnant. Husband George doesn't want another child; he yells at Jackie for her faulty birth control (as if he had nothing to do with the matter). And Jackie yells at him for being "a bloody hypocrite." Now Jackie's against abortion. But now George is for abortion. So the Voice of Anti-becomes the Voice of Pro- (or vice versa, depending on how you look at it). Poor George gets stuck exercising both sides of his mouth, advocating both sides of the issue. That way, the show ends up advocating nothing at all. Choices adds no new perspective or arguments to the battle. Even George concedes near the end: "I'm so tired of this debate." But Choices does do a suprisingly good job of humanizing the issue, showing the emotional and ethical struggles faced by people on both sides of this electrified fence. Choices, with its constraints, is a more intelligent movie than I thought it could be. And it gives you three fine performances. If Choices wins in the ratings, I just hope the other networks don't follow with more abortion shows. The topic's tricky enough as is.