‘Unpregnant’: We Have to Laugh
HBO Max's roadtrip movie is a pure delight
Writer’s note: This review briefly discusses a plot point involving stalking, if you need resources on stalking and domestic violence, please visit https://www.thehotline.org/.
The personal is political and art is political. I’ve learned this in my time as a student but also in my time as an adult functioning in the middle of a global fallout, which is a consequence of years of unchecked greed, destruction, and bigotry. In regards to both personal experiences and art, Unpregnant manages to be a shining beacon of comedy and love, while also bringing to light some deeply unpleasant truths about how absolutely archaic the punishments are for being a woman in America. Particularly, a sexually active young woman.
Thelma…Wait, Veronica & Bailey
The basic premise of Unpregnant is a somewhat familiar trope. Two ex-best friends have to go on a big road trip because one of the friends is in trouble. In this particular story, golden girl Veronica finds out she is pregnant, despite all her best efforts to remain otherwise. She’s set to go off to a good college, and a baby would ruin those plans. She sets out to get an abortion. The rub, of course, is that because she’s 17, she cannot get an abortion in her home state of Missouri without her parents finding out. She wants to do this as quickly and quietly as possible, so she hatches a plan to spend a weekend driving to Albuquerque. Naturally, her popular friends are unhelpful, and it turns out her boyfriend is the reason she is pregnant due to his carelessness, so she recruits her ex-best friend, Bailey, to help her.
Bailey is the consummate rebel, all black and punk to Veronica’s blonde and prep. Bailey agrees, and hilarity ensues as they run into a myriad of twists and turns on their trip. I have to say, this is one of the, maybe, five films I have ever seen that takes a predictable premise and genuinely surprises and delights me along the way. The other films in this caliber are Clueless, Parasite, Booksmart, and Ready or Not. So, Unpregnant is one among excellent company.
It’s based on the novel of the same name by Ted Caplan and Jenni Hendricks, and besides them had four separate screenwriters. I usually raise an eyebrow at films with a lot of writer influence, but I think something magical happened here. Every bit of the plot is more clever than the last, there are amazing little details that add depth to Bailey and Veronica’s friendship, and the dialogue is deeply funny. It would honestly be hard for me to summarize the different parts of this trip in any way that makes sense, so I am going to let you watch it for yourself. I applaud Rachel Lee Goldberg‘s writing and direction here. My jaw was on the floor when I wasn’t cackling, honestly.
Praise Gen Z Actors
Barbie Ferreira is about to hit her moment. After her breakout role as Kat in Euphoria, she has been all over magazines, H&M fashion spreads, and not to mention her dynamite Instagram. Unpregnant is her second huge role, but she’s only just started what is sure to be an incredible career. She brings so much humor and vulnerability to her role as Bailey, and I wonder if Ferreira saw herself in this role, or if she’s just that good that I never questioned it for a second. Bailey has a touching moment with Kira Matthews, a race car driver played by musician Betty Who, which could have been a whole movie in itself.
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