While not deviating very much from the standard buddy movie road trip comedy formula, Unpregnant works well within that structure. Chemistry between the leads is fantastic and it has a verbose snarky script similar to 2007’s teenage girl pregnancy dramedy, Juno. Of course, the intended result in Unpregnant is very, very different from that film but they share similar vibes, with one character even quipping that her friend is “Juno”. Unpregnant features snappy road trip prattle that veers somewhat awkwardly for an outsized parody slapstick comedy in the middle but the bond between the duo holds it together.
High school senior and general academic go getter Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) finds out that she is pregnant by her very dopey boyfriend, Kevin (Alex MacNicholl), which will cause a massive problem for her intended life path. Because of a dropped pregnancy test at school, her former best friend from childhood Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) discovers that Veronica is, as Bailey awkwardly puts it, “with child.” Veronica decides to get an abortion but in Missouri she needs parental consent, something she thinks her mother will not agree with, so the closest place to get the procedure is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since her former best friend has a car and knows about the situation, Veronica enlists Bailey to drive hoping they can get there and back without her mom finding out.
The abortion road trip plot is just a framework for a story about two old friends connecting again after years of being apart. It is a classic straight laced /crazy weirdo comedy pairing and the actresses are great. Bailey and Veronica know each other’s quirks and even have secret dance moves and handshakes which gives their interactions a shared sense of history. One very affecting scene is when they go on a midway ride and yell at the top of their lungs their life dilemmas to the void. Probably the best bit is that they are fluent in Klingon which they learned as kids which allows for funny asides where they speak Klingon to secretly communicate.
Richardson is sort of the lead since the story revolves around her and she does a good job as someone who is overtly prepared to reach her goal. Ferreira as Bailey gets in the good lines with her sarcastic reactions to Veronica’s hyperactive over-planning and even has good physical comedy like when Veronica is talking to someone and Bailey awkwardly mishandles a nearby guitar. Unpregnant is ultimately about these two former friends coming together and their chemistry seems very realistic. Sure, people talk wittier and faster in Unpregnant than they do in real life but it feels like it takes place in a heightened sense of reality.
There is a divergence in the middle that is funny but also becomes a wee bit too outlandish slapstick to work completely tonally with what came before. Still, its an awesome scene where Veronica and Bailey accept a ride from two strangers, played with too extreme niceness by Breckin Meyer and Sugar Lyn Beard, that goes completely awry. Things devolve into a high speed chase and lots of hollering which is funny but seems a little left field. Later, the duo meet another person played energetically by Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad and The Mandalorian who provides some deranged laughs. One meeting when Bailey runs into a potential love interest just seems like standard road trip movie stuff, also a whole bit where Bailey is driving a stolen car seems kind of unnecessary. As the overeager boyfriend MacNicholl starts off as dim and stays that way but as the movie goes on he shows more of an uglier side, becoming an obstacle Veronica has to overcome on her way to standing up for herself.
Unpregnant is never preachy about Veronica getting an abortion, it is presented as very matter of fact, which is good because moralizing would be a drag and get in the way of the yuks. There is one moment where after everything has gone wrong as Veronica and Bailey make a half-hearted attempt to jump on a train and Veronica rightfully freaks out that it’s legal to give birth to a human being but has to go on a 1000 miles trip to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. It is a strong statement and also has Richardson delivering a very solid comedic freak out. As is standard in the buddy movie/road trip formula, in the third act it looks like the friends will fall apart which doesn’t generate much genuine tension but both actresses sell it. Bailey has a side plot about meeting up with an absentee dad which is emotional although a bit transparently manipulative. The end of the movie is heartfelt and played low key with a powerful closing scene between the two friends.
Despite the superficially edgy subject matter, Unpregnant is mostly a standard but very well crafted buddy road trip flick. The duo are very likeable which adds a lot as the script provides them with a bunch of chances to shine. Also a whole bunch of Klingon language, yelling and pop song montages, which is always a bonus.
Director: Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Starring: Haley Lu Richardson, Barbie Ferreira and Giancarlo Esposito