Unpregnant

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Unpregnant

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: When Type-A high school student Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) finds out that she’s pregnant, she enlists the help of her former best friend Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) to go on a cross-country road trip in order to get an abortion without her parents finding out. As you might expect, hijinks ensue.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Earlier this year, writer/director Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always explored the harrowing horrors of what some teenagers have to go through in order to get an abortion in this country, thanks to backwards and archaic laws that unfairly govern women’s bodies. Unpregnant does the same thing, but whereas Never Rarely is a moody, powerfully acted piece of serious drama, this movie views its protagonist’s situation from a comedic angle. Neither approach is “better,” since they’re both great at what they’re trying to do. But if you’re looking for a fun, funny, heartwarming new comedy, Unpregnant is one of the best hidden gems of the year so far.

Unpregnant is an HBO Max original, and chances are high that you might not even know it’s already been available for a few weeks now. With a minimal marketing campaign and very little buzz following its premiere, it’s not surprising that the film feels like a discovery – but perhaps that slight feeling of uncovering a piece of buried treasure gives the movie an edge it wouldn’t have had otherwise. Not that it needs any help. Director Rachel Lee Goldenberg (who’s helmed tons of TV shows and directed A Deadly Adoption for Will Ferrell and Adam McKay) absolutely nails the tone here, perfectly capturing Veronica and Bailey’s strained but slowly resuscitating friendship and putting these characters through the wringer in incredibly entertaining ways as their road trip goes off the rails.

Richardson continues to prove that she’s one of the brightest young rising stars in Hollywood, and with The Edge of Seventeen already under her belt, she’s now been in two of the best teen comedies of the past decade. I was especially impressed by Barbie Ferreira, whose work I wasn’t familiar with before this: as Bailey, she delivers the type of star-making performance that makes you want to buy stock in an actor’s career. She’s hilarious, outrageous, vulnerable, charming, and deeply emotional – needless to say, I’m very interested to see where she goes after this. She’s actually so good that I wonder if Richardson is going to get lost in the conversation about this movie – that would be a shame, because playing the straight (wo)man in a comedy duo is tougher than it appears, and she’s excellent as the anchor of this whole story.

This is the kind of movie I want to evangelize for: a well-rounded, dramatic, funny piece of storytelling that has a message but also keeps you laughing, with characters I loved and memorable antics that feel just a few degrees off from what you might expect. If you liked Booksmart (and that should be all of you, because that movie also rules), be sure to seek this one out.

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