The issue of abortion rights in America is explored through an unexpected vehicle in “Unpregnant,” a teen road trip comedy (based on the book by Jenni Hendriks) with a feminist twist. Reminiscent of the high school relationship portrayed in “Booksmart,” the film tells the story of pregnant 17-year-old Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) and her ex-best friend Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) as they cross state lines so Veronica can end her unwanted pregnancy without parental consent.
The film tackles the serious problems with many of our country’s laws that aim to restrict abortion access and healthcare for America’s young women. The subject matter is treated with respect and a graceful, no-nonsense hand, and Veronica’s decision is never taken lightly. The film takes a giant step in helping to destigmatize the abortion procedure, and normalizes the right for a woman to have control over her own body and decisions. It’s an excellent and timely lesson, considering landmark Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade may soon be hanging in the balance.
While billed as a comedy, the gags and jokes aren’t really that funny (even when they are supposed to be offering comic relief). There are strained narrative gimmicks that don’t add much, like the wacky characters they meet along the way (including a limo driver named Bob (Giancarlo Esposito) and a pro-life weirdo (Breckin Meyer), and a subplot about Bailey’s deadbeat dad. But Ferreira and Richardson have an incredible onscreen chemistry, and it’s downright impossible not to root for these odd couple characters as they rekindle their friendship. The lead actors are charming with irresistible goofball qualities, making the film so much more than a typical high school buddy comedy. I want to see more of these two in future films, as they could have a bright future as a dynamic screen duo.
Although I didn’t love “Unpregnant,” I do respect what director Rachel Lee Goldenberg is trying to do with this project. It’s not easy to take a creative spin when it comes to important women’s liberation issues, and the fact that this movie exists at all should be applauded.
By: Louisa Moore