If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to be grateful for everything we once took for granted. Friends, family, health, sports, and even those odd movies that appear randomly on a streaming service.
“Unpregnant” is one of HBO Max’s first original films which tells the story of two former friends, Veronica and Bailey, traveling from Missouri to Albuquerque to get an abortion without Veronica’s parents’ permission. Even when Veronica plans the entire trip to a T, colorful side characters and hijinks ensue at every rest stop, gas station and town along the way.
In just the very first scene, it becomes apparent just how strong the chemistry is between stars Haley Lu Richardson (“The Edge of Seventeen”) and Barbie Ferreira (Kat in HBO’s “Euphoria”). The banter early on between them shows that there is some tension after the friendship fell apart but that deep down there is still a connection between the two.
It is obvious that ego and reputation was what created a divide between the estranged childhood best friends. Veronica is obsessed with her image. She is about to attend an Ivy League school and surrounds herself with the cliché popular crowd that is obsessed with investigating who the positive pregnancy test found belongs to (Spoiler alert: It’s Veronica’s). Bailey is nearly the complete opposite. Sitting alone in the cafeteria, playing video games at home and not giving a care about her outward appearance; she is the “yin” to Veronica’s “yang.”
It goes without saying that the driving force behind “Unpregnant” are its’ stars Richardson and Ferreira who masterfully take control of the film and deliver two brilliant performances that give their characters so much depth. Without these two, this film would be shoved to the end of a long list of films on HBO Max’s site, never to be heard or seen from again.
The script does a great job at showcasing just how unique these two are, but the plot gets in the way and makes for, at times, an undercooked story. Attempting to be a culmination of genres like classic road trip movie, buddy comedy, coming of age tale and even a serious drama is a difficult mixture. Because of this, “Unpregnant” does not find its proper footing until about halfway through. But when it does discover what kind of film it wants to be, it becomes one of the most charming films of the year.
The plot of two teens going out of state to get an abortion without parental consent is also featured in director Eliza Hittman’s “Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always” which gave a dark, gritty and realistic look at the subject matter earlier this year. “Unpregnant” handles the material in a more accessible way by incorporating comedy and a rousing soundtrack that allows younger audiences to relate more to the characters and situations. And even though this road trip can be paint-by-the-numbers at times, it shares one important characteristic in common with Hittman’s indie darling: a woman making an extremely personal and important choice.
The audience feels the importance in Veronica’s decision and the script even throws some punches at the current government and state of laws. It is also released at an awkward time in the United States’ history as the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg occurred just over a week after the film’s release, which may set into motion the repeal of Roe v. Wade that allows for safe, legal abortions in the United States. Soon the film may be looked at as an American relic. In that case, we might need movies like “Unpregnant” to escape reality for a few hours.