“Unpregnant” stars Haley Lu Richardson, Barbie Ferreira, Alex MacNicoll, Breckin Meyer, Giancarlo Esposito, Sugar Lyn Beard, and Betty Who. Released on HBO Max on September 10, 2020, the film is about a teenager who goes on a road trip with her former friend to get an abortion.
The film is directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, who is known for directing several films from The Asylum as well as directing “A Deadly Adoption” and the 2020 remake of “Valley Girl”. It is based on the novel of the same name by Ted Caplan and Jenni Hendricks. You can’t have a fun road trip without someone by your side, especially since this road trip involves getting an abortion. HBO Max has gotten off to an impressive start with their original documentaries like “On the Record” and last month’s “Class Action Park”. The latter is worth checking out, by the way. Although, their original film library is having a hard time finding their footing. I’m not really impressed with how “An American Pickle” turned out even though it has earned some good reviews from critics. I enjoyed Seth Rogen’s performance, but the overall story wasn’t as delicious as a jar full of pickles. So I was hoping that the next few films from HBO Max would be able to turn things around, including a film that deals with abortion. I don’t watch a lot of films that involve this type of concept because let’s face it, abortions take away lives before they’re even born, and that’s no good. Despite the fact that they’re good for teens who aren’t ready to handle that type of responsibility, I belong in a group that doesn’t support this heartless crime. But don’t worry, I’m only viewing the film because of its cast and the positive reviews it’s been getting. So with that in mind, let’s find out if this latest original film from HBO Max is worth a trip.
The story centers on Veronica Clarke (Richardson), a high school student who dreams of enrolling in an Ivy League college. Her dream and her reputation are put into jeopardy, however, when she discovers that she is pregnant. After she learns that she can’t get an abortion in her home state without her parents’ permission, she convinces her former friend Bailey Butler (Ferreira) to take her to the next nearest clinic to get one, which is in Albuquerque. During their road trip, they attempt to rekindle their friendship while being forced to go through one mishap after another. The plot is equivalent to “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, which is another film that involves a road trip to get an abortion, with a small dash of inspiration from Ridley Scott’s “Thelma & Louise”. You might understand what I mean if you saw one of the films I mentioned. This is one of the subjects in film that can be a bit tricky to represent if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you treat it poorly by making numerous jokes about it, you’ll be receiving death threats in the mail in a matter of minutes. If you make it too dark and depressing, then it will become unwatchable for its target audience. “Unpregnant” was able to properly balance this representation as well as deliver a fun and heartwarming tale about two former friends reconnecting with one another. Its thematic depth wasn’t as deep as it could’ve been when it comes to its subject matter, but it didn’t hinder this compelling experience thanks to its mixture of light-hearted comedy and teen drama that treats its mature topic with respect and care. Haley Lu Richardson delivered a performance that’s worthy of her talents as Veronica, but the real star here is Barbie Ferreira, who is known for starring in the HBO series “Euphoria”. Ferreira’s character, Bailey, is someone who isn’t afraid to get a little crazy, but is also meaningful during specific moments in the film. It’s the type of blend that Ferreira was successfully able to pull off mostly due to her charismatic performance and her chemistry with Richardson. She’s basically one of the reasons why I found this film entertaining and endearing. If you’re concerned that Ferreira’s character might ruin the film because of her personality, worry not. She passed with flying colors in my book. The rest of the cast, including Meyer and Esposito, also had some good moments that weren’t as memorable as the chemistry between the two main lead actresses, but were worthy enough to make it more watchable. Truth be told, I was a bit baffled to see Goldenberg helm this type of film after directing several low-budget television films, including the Lifetime movie “A Deadly Adoption”. At first, I was worried that the film might turn out to be as cheesy as those types of films, but after watching it for myself, I was surprised to see that she’s able to make it bearable and a bit more realistic. Goldenberg offered a respectable balance in its tone that understood the issues of its sensitive topic without constantly making fun of it. There was this one scene that I believe could’ve been ripped out of any low-brow road trip comedy, making its tonal shift not only unexpected, but a bit off-putting. Aside from that, the film’s tone has a proper balance that doesn’t offend or alienate its audience.
Overall, “Unpregnant” is a road trip that isn’t as boring as a real-life road trip. While it’s not a powerful portrayal of its themes, it has enough heart and humor to provide a well-acted and suitably-written comedy that’s not only entertaining, but also thoughtful. Thanks to the chemistry between Richardson and Ferreira, Goldenberg’s direction, and a screenplay that’s both honest and funny, this is one of the better films that HBO Max has to offer. Here’s hoping that the streaming service can keep that trend going in the future.