The 400-Word Review: Unpregnant
By Sean Collier
September 12, 2020
How do you give weight to yet another road-trip comedy? One easy way: By making it a road-trip comedy about an abortion.
“Unpregnant,” a thoughtful and funny new film debuting on HBO Max, has a very similar plot to this year’s gripping drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.” In both films, a teen dealing with an unintended pregnancy takes a secretive road trip to get to a state where it will be legal for her to obtain an abortion without parental consent. Both films even give their protagonists a companion (a former friend in “Unpregnant,” a cousin in “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”).
Where the earlier film was a serious exploration of the emotional toll of the restrictive laws governing women’s health, “Unpregnant” is absolutely a comedy at heart.
Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson), a high school senior with Ivy League plans, finds herself accidentally pregnant, via her well-meaning but dumb and dull boyfriend (Alex MacNicoll). The only one who knows (so far) is Bailey (Barbie Ferreira), who was Veronica’s best friend through childhood; the two have grown apart as Veronica has tended toward the social upper crust.
Even though Veronica lives in Missouri, the nearest clinic that can legally serve a 17-year-old is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Out of options, Veronica begs Bailey for a ride.
“Unpregnant” gets most of its dramatic momentum from the relationship between these long-lost friends. The foundational aspects of their bond are very much in place, but the two don’t understand one another — and, refreshingly, it’s not merely a “Mean Girls” case of Veronica’s ambitions. Bailey is hostile toward her former friend’s plans and drive, just as Veronica can’t understand Bailey’s laissez-faire attitude. The friendship rift, which is too often portrayed as a surface-level spat in teen films, feels genuine.
Fortunately, the comedy keeps up, particularly when the pair are quietly kidnapped by a salt-of-the-earth Texas couple (Sugar Lyn Beard and Breckin Meyer) who turn out to be zealots. A chase scene pitting Bailey’s stolen pickup against a hulking RV with an image of a smiling baby on the front grill is probably the highlight.
It’s a strong structure; the seriousness of the situation both balances out the humor and also gives Bailey and Veronica a reason to overcome their spat. Director Rachel Lee Goldenberg handles the delicate tone well. The breakout star, however, is Ferreira, who is hilarious and raw. She’s a future comedy powerhouse.
My Rating: 7/10
“Unpregnant” is now streaming on HBO Max.