Movie Review: Unpregnant
Unpregnant is about two teenagers on a road trip... so that one of them can get an abortion. Veronica and Bailey used to be best friends, but a riff in high school drove them apart. Now, Bailey is Veronica's last hope to get from their home in Missouri, which is a state that doesn't allow for women under eighteen to get an abortion without a parents consent, to Albuquerque, which is the closest city that will allow the procedure to take place. Of course it wouldn't be a road trip without a lot of hijinks along the way. The film stars Haley Lu Richardson, Barbie Ferreira, Alex MacNicoll, Brekin Meyer, Sugar Lyn Beard, Denny Love, Betty Who, Giancarlo Esposito, and Mary McCormack. The film is directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg and written by Goldenberg, Bill Parker, Jenni Hendriks, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, and Ted Caplan. The film is streaming exclusively on HBOMax.
I loved this movie. It combines several of my favorite things like road trips, platonic friendship, incredible heart and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." It's always a good sign when a movie can make me laugh out loud often, but have me in genuine tears by the end as well. Not only that, but it's incredibly informative.
There have been a couple of great movies lately that have gone over the actual procedure of an abortion. I think it's even bolder in a comedic movie to take the time to do that, to not use it as fodder, but to bring the facts out into the open. That coupled with an incredible scene where Veronica vents her entire frustration about the shitty predicament she's in is perfect. It's a funny scene, but it's also a scene that's heartbreaking when you break down the awful reality that women's bodies are legislated in this way.
Though, all of that wouldn't work if the film didn't have a solid foundation of a great story. I will write it as many times as I can, I love a platonic friendship on screen. Veronica and Bailey have so much time to make up, but that's what a road trip is for. It's great to get a window into their lives before and how they still compliment each other even when they're at odds. It's a delightful chemistry.
That chemistry may be overmatched by my favorite scene in the whole film. I love it when a queer teen can have a romantic experience. When Bailey and Kira make their way through the fun house, my heart swelled with joy. We only learn moments before this that Bailey has come out to many of the important people in her life and is comfortable in who she is, but to have her be flustered and enamored is incredible. I love that it's her first kiss and that she is shy about it. It's a sweet scene.
The scenes I really was uncomfortable with were those with the pro-life couple that Veronica and Bailey meet on the road. They're good scenes and absolutely necessary, I just can't stand people who impose their own beliefs on anyone else. It puts me ill at ease to see such dangerous zealots in such a silly light. I totally understand why these scenes are in the film and I love the scenes after the reveal of the couple's true motives, but the exchange made me so nervous and afraid for our heroes.
Our heroes are terrific, though. Haley Lu Richardson is an incredible dynamo, throwing herself into roles. She brings an energy and incredible presence to the screen. She blows me away every time, especially the way she can heft the incredible emotional weight of a lot of this film. I wasn't familiar with Barbie Ferreria before Unpregnant, but I'm hoping her comedy career blossoms into something even slightly as spectacular as she is here. She's witty, she's quick, she's got a great physicality, she's the whole package. The chemistry between the two of them is undeniable and so terrific. I want these two to play opposite each other again because they can't let this pair go to waste.
Unpregnant is really the whole package, it has the incredibly funny road trip, the heavy, but manageable abortion plot, and the truth that it's always the woman's choice. It's a movie you should watch with your age appropriate daughter. It's a movie you should watch with all the women in your life. It's a movie that could spark discussion. It is also a movie that can be paired with a more dramatic and similarly themed film, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which was also released in 2020. Seek this one out and talk about it.