HBOMax’s Unpregnant is the 2nd film to come out this year about a teen girl having to cross state lines in order to get an abortion. On the surface, they’re easy to compare, but unlike Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Unpregnant takes the serious subject of teenage abortion and turns it into a coming of age, buddy, road-trip comedy. Does it work? Yes and no.
Unpregnant is based on a novel written by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan of the same name. The film stars Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira who take on the roles of Veronica and Bailey; two high school girls from Missouri who use to be best friends – but life and personal trauma tore them apart. Veronica (Richardson), Valedictorian, in a seemingly perfect monogamous relationship where they always use a condom, takes a pregnancy test at school.
The results – PREGNANT. Fate or happenstance, her one-time best friend, Bailey (Ferreira), happens to be in the restroom for this intimate moment. In hopes of keeping this pregnancy a secret from town gossip and her religious parents, Veronica begs her once BFF to drive her to the closest clinic that will take her. However, the clinic is in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Unpregnant Strikes A Strange Tone
I’d like to note that I’ve never read the Graphic Novel so I can’t say how true to it the movie stays. Having said that, along the way to the clinic, the duo runs into a multitude of issues derailing the perfectly planned drive to and from. Unpregnant gives us quirky new characters around every corner. From Betty Who playing a badass, lesbian, stock car driver who helps Bailey solidify that she is 1000% a lesbian, to Sugar Lyn Beard (The Flash) and Breckin Meyer (Clueless/Road Trip) who play ultra Christians Activist who are so Pro-Life that they kidnap the two teenage girls in order to keep Veronica from having an abortion. We even get a wack-a-do conspiracy theorist from Giancarlo Esposito (The Boys, Breaking Bad). Each new character that gets introduced gets more and more cartoonish taking away from any message the film may be trying to get across.
However, where the film absolutely works is with the two leads. Haley and Barbie tell a genuine story of female friendship. The actresses’ charm, chemistry, and comedic timing absolutely carry this film when the script lets them down.
I also appreciate the flip Unpregnant gives us on baby trapping. Veronica is the valedictorian with huge plans for her future. Her boyfriend, Kevin, not so much. In order to keep things the same and simple, Kevin keeps the secret of the condom breaking to himself, wishing and hoping that he got his girlfriend pregnant so that she’ll stay with him in their small town forever.
Wrapping It All Up Pretty Well, But It’s Still A Mess
Another moment I truly loved, even though it feels like a huge genre departure, is the most grounded moment of the entire film – we get a step by step guide from a nurse as to Veronica’s options and what she can expect before, during, and after the procedure. Which is something I don’t feel a lot of people know
Those moments aside, Unpregnant tries to fit a lot into its 104 min runtime (1hr 44mins) and doesn’t quite figure out what it wants to be – a buddy, road trip comedy, a political satire with a deeper pro-choice message, a quirky teen comedy coming of age story? All of the above? The film has 5 screenwriters credited and it absolutely feels that way. It makes me almost want to read the Graphic Novel to see if it’s just as big of a mess.
Was Unpregnant terrible? No. I’ve definitely seen worse. Is it a must-watch? Also, no. If you’re bored with nothing else in your streaming queue, and you’re the demographic this film is after go for it. Otherwise, you can probably skip it.