Although in the last 12 months we’ve had two films detailing the very subject that Natalie Morales navigates in her directorial debut, Plan B, it doesn’t mean that her efforts are by any means diminished. The buddy comedy Unpregnant and the hauntingly realistic Never Rarely Sometimes Always both highlighted the difficulty of teen girls accessing health care pertaining to their rights of abortion. It’s so often a case of differing laws for each state, making the seemingly comical lengths women go to all the more serious.
The opening moments of Plan B bring to mind the likes of Olivia Wilde’s female-led, sex-positive comedy Booksmart, with this film’s centric BFF’s, Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (Victoria Moroles), both in the throws of surrendering to their libidos. Sunny’s strict mother and her insistence on imposing Indian traditions, and Lupe’s father being a pastor who doesn’t seem to understand her fashion aesthetic, mean they’re already at a disadvantage when it comes to any type of sexual freedom. Nothing that a little impromptu house party won’t fix though.
At school the duo are about as passingly popular as we expect, not incessantly bullied but (un)noticed enough to be taunted by the typical blonde archetypes who hurl their best insults in the gym class locker rooms, only for Lupe to snarlingly retaliate in witty fashion; this exchange just one of the quick, biting gems the Joshua Levy/Prathiksha Srinivasan-penned script provides. School life isn’t all gloom though as a rather hilarious sex-ed set-piece involving a dated video – one where a woman’s privates are likened to that of an automobile – allows Sunny and her crush-from-afar Hunter (Michael Provost) to share a moment, something that Lupe takes advantage of by convincing the currently unsupervised Sunny to throw a party, intending for Hunter to be the primary guest of honour.
Naturally the party doesn’t go entirely to plan, and angry at what she assumes is Hunter taking off with one of the mean girls, has regrettable first-time sex with a fellow classmate, realising the next morning that the condom used has remained inside of her all night. Off to get the Plan B pill they go. Except only not. Refusing to sell to underage girls under his own “conscience clause”, the local pharmacist (Jay Chandrasekhar) turns the irritable Lupe and the increasingly worried Sunny away, driving them to their most desperate option: road tripping.
With their nearest Planned Pregnancy outlet some three hours away, Sunny and Lupe “borrow” Sunny’s mother’s mini-van and set off on their worrisome journey, with questionable GPS and a shady drug dealer just two of the obstacles they unexpectedly face along the way; the aforementioned drug dealer sequence resulting in one of the film’s biggest laughs due to one of its “biggest” sight gags – emphasis on the gag.
Whilst Plan B‘s script still rests on expected tropes – the inevitable fight between two supposedly rock-solid friends and the representation factor of one of them being queer – the organic nature to proceedings and the fact that Morales has a very clear understanding of navigating her narrative means the film is always inherently watchable. It’s also of massive benefit that Verma and Moroles share a chemistry that suggests these girls are friends as opposed to just actresses playing friends.
As is the case with most road trip movies, the destination ultimately really doesn’t matter, with the journey, both literally and metaphorically, being the prime objective. It’s a familiar map used, but behind the driver’s seat Morales takes us on a fresh route that we are more than happy to be a passenger on.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Plan B is now streaming on Hulu.