Plan B, 2021.
Directed by Natalie Morales.
Starring Kuhoo Verma, Victoria Moroles, Michael Provost, Myha’la Herrold, Jolly Abraham, Mason Cook, Timothy Granderos, Moses Storm, Edi Patterson, Jacob Vargas, Gus Birney, Hana Hayes, Bobby Tisdale, Josh Ruben, Alexander Low, and Jay Chandrasekhar.
Follows a straight-laced high school student and her slacker best friend who, after a regrettable first sexual encounter, have 24 hours to hunt down a Plan B pill in America’s heartland.
As I watched Plan B, I couldn’t help but think of last year’s Unpregnant for two reasons: both comedies share a similar road trip narrative centered on teenage friendship and pro-choice pregnancy, and I mistakenly thought Hulu had also released that movie on their streaming service and that they were cornering the market regarding timely comedies on women’s rights, specifically with their bodies. It turns out the latter was actually released on HBO Max, but the point stands because I also found that movie aggressively grating and hollow. Plan B doesn’t fall into any of those traps, presented as something more attuned to the way teenagers probably talk (an R rating helps a lot for raunchy sex comedies aiming to explore the act itself and the aftermath) while striking a more thoughtful balance between humor, drama, and social commentary.
Unpregnant (at least for this critic, as I’m aware I’m in the minority on disliking it) genuinely became occasionally uncomfortable with how hard it pushed humor surrounding an abortion (to clarify, my dislike for the movie has nothing to do with the subject matter as I am pro-choice), especially when coming off of Eliza Hittman’s searing and criminally underappreciated exploration of the same sensitive topic in her masterful Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Enter Natalie Morales directing what could be considered her feature-length debut (she has another film completed that has premiered at festivals but still awaiting distribution, that I will be checking out whenever it does find a home), imbuing Plan B with a combination of both raunch, gravitas, heart, and sharp enough comedic writing to bring to mind Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, which this film assuredly rivals. The long-winded point here is that Plan B is an amalgamation of the best aspects of this quickly growing subgenre that should go down as one of the funniest movies of 2021.
Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (Victoria Moroles) are high school besties that seem to have been brought together for many reasons, such as having strict and conservative guardians, dealing with racial insensitivity, and sincerely caring about one another. Of course, they also happen to be super curious about experimenting with sexual intercourse. Not necessarily the most popular kids in school, their luck does turn around when one of their peers has to cancel the latest rager planned at his parent’s house, to which Sunny seizes an opportunity to throw a party at her own home while her real estate agent mom (Jolly Abraham) is away on a business trip. Sunny’s thinking is that such a setting would also make for the perfect opportunity to make a move on her crush, the handsome and respectfully intelligent Hunter (Michael Provost). At the same time, Lupe (the more sexually experienced one, embracing perceived as slutty)) could invite and meet for the first time an important long-distance companion.
Naturally, things do not go as planned. Hunter leaves the party early, which significantly frustrates Sunny, who is beyond horny and craving to lose her virginity, and now intoxicated, causing her to throw herself at the dorky head of the Christian youth group, Kyle (Mason Cook), which would have been fine if she was actually interested in him. Instead, she feels regret and shame even though she did nothing wrong, but rather had a forgivable lapse in decision-making. The following day she realizes that the condom did not, uhh, work as planned and that over-the-counter pharmacies in South Dakota will not sell her the titular morning-after pill for bullshit moral high ground reasons. Still eager to finally meet her friend who could not attend the party, Lupe convinces Sunny to take her mom’s vehicle for an adventurous ride.
From there, Plan B only gets increasingly wild, coasting off of brilliant chemistry between its leads (if there’s any justice, they will both become comedic stars in the same way something like Superbad launched careers) while also introducing supporting players memorable for a variety of good and bad reasons. A segment inside of a school ground park is simultaneously creepy, realistic, and hysterical. Every once in a while, the humor from the degenerates these two encounter might come on a little too strong, but it’s all grounded inside of an honest depiction of what girls on the cusp of adulthood face from society.
The script from Joshua Levy and Prathiksha Srinivasan also aren’t afraid to shift focus from one protagonist to the other or take on a more dramatic approach. Slut-shaming is heartbreakingly addressed, the longtime best friends are still believably hiding critical details about each other, and they learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. Natalie Morales has crafted a terrific and relevant comedy with Plan B that should, hopefully, open doors to do even greater things.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com