Unpregnant (2020)



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Unpregnant is one of the first ‘Max Original’ films from the latest incarnation of HBO. The film is based on a book and Rachel Lee Goldenberg brings it to life on screen. Veronica, Haley Lu Richardson, finds out she is pregnant after her idiot boyfriend Kevin, Alex MacNicoll, hides the fact the condom broke when they had sex. Veronica is desperate for a ride to Albuquerque and finds herself traveling with forgotten friend Bailey, Barbie Ferreira. Haley and Barbie are two fresh faces who do a fantastic job in this road trip film.

Veronica lives in Missouri and must go to New Mexico to get an abortion without letting her parents know. Parental consent is required in Missouri for those under 18. As a side note, Missouri has a single clinic able to perform abortions as of today in St. Louis. There is one nice monolog about how stupid it is that minors can have children without parental consent but must have a parent involved to have an abortion in many states.

The movie has a classic story of friends reuniting after growing estranged. Veronica becomes popular while Bailey ends up with no friends and becomes the classic high school outsider. Layered on top of the outcast vibe is the fact that Bailey is gay. Eventually, this trope is no longer going to play as well because the LGBTQ+ community will no longer be outsiders. In 2020 it feels ok to layer on this additional outsiderness.

We find out Bailey is gay when she makes out with another woman that she just met at a fair in Texas. There is a very music video-esque sequence in a funhouse resulting in an extended kiss in a ball pit. In the next scene, this newly found love interest lets Bailey get into a car with Veronic and a couple of strangers who claim to be headed to Albuquerque. I do not believe for a second that the love interest would not pull Bailey aside to do a quick double-check on the situation. I guess she was fine with Bailey being potentially kidnapped.

Bailey and Veronica do find themselves kidnapped by the couple who run an RV based ‘pregnancy crisis center.’ It is very heavy-handed and all too predictable as Veronica and Bailey awaken in an empty parked car.

This movie had a lot going on and I don’t think it was all that cohesive. There are lots of superfluous elements that never pay off and detract from the bigger message in the film. It tries, for a moment here and there to address a women’s right to control her body, but it never goes more than toe deep into the waters. Family and friend dynamics could have been a larger part of the film to make it more of a conversation amongst a religious family and their daughter or a popular girl and her popular friends. The movie falls into the troupe of the popular girls becoming friends with the outsider once again.

Barbie Ferreira and Haley Lu Richards did a great job in this film. I hope they continue to be cast in bigger films. Rachel Lee Goldenberg is a journeyman on the TV circuit with directing and released her feature-length debut Valley Girl this year. I want to see her given more opportunities behind the camera on full-length features. I hope that this is not her dream project. I want to see more work from her.

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©2019 by Sean Whitehurst