‘Plan B’ is a hit comedy with some painful truths
Few films walk such a tricky tightrope as that of Plan B, a great out-all-night comedy now available on Hulu that manages to combine the energy of Bookmaker with compassion for teenagers and their parents by Blockers. However, it adds a refreshing and rare – until recently at least – willingness to tell a story about one of the things that can really create a desperate situation for a girl of this age: access to reproductive health care.
In this case, Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) is a South Dakota high school student whose first sexual encounter is unsatisfactory and unfortunate even before she realizes a birth control mishap means she is in danger of conceiving. (It’s worth noting that of all the birth control ills you’ve seen in movies, this is one of the least featured, but most plausible, especially for teenagers whose sex education has been patchy and incomplete.) She knows her best chance at it Protection from pregnancy at this point is the morning-after pill (the title plan B), but when she goes with her best friend Lupe (Victoria Moroles) to get it, the local pharmacist refuses her for the simple reason that he doesn’t does. ‘I don’t want to give it to her. He explains that under South Dakota law, he doesn’t have to – even if she has no other choice. “Morally, my hands are tied,” he says with a smile.
So begins a hike to a place three hours away for planned parenting in Rapid City, where the girls compete against a clock that is constantly ticking because Sunny has to take the pill within a relatively short time. As in any good buddy road movie, fate lobbies to throw all sorts of obstacles in front of Sunny and Lupe, from an unexpected encounter with Lupe’s online crush to a guy selling random pills from a toolbox, to Problems with the van they have. Regarding driving and cellular dead zones, they have to try to figure out how to read a paper map.
Crazy set pieces? Check! A horror send-up when the girls flee a seedy party house? Check! An encounter with a quirky shop clerk (Edi Patterson) giving incomprehensible instructions? Check! These are the things that you would expect from a movie like this, and they deliver them with style and good humor.
But what a breath of fresh air it is to see all of this comfortably next to such an open view of the position Sunny is in. There’s a smart and low-key scene that underscores the fact that because Sunny has to worry about getting pregnant, she can’t reflect that sexual experience in the unguarded way that the boy who was involved does : as a simple matter whether she regrets it in any personal, moral or ethical sense. Instead, she has to spend her time dealing with specific problems, such as whether she will get pregnant. And, as we discover, much of her world was built for pregnancy More probably if she’s having sex at all. She seems to have had spotty birth control training for a 17 year old, incapable of getting the backup method she desires, and her relationship with her mother – who, if it were an option, might help, with her to go – is complicated by the way they both think about sex.
The Plan B The script was written by Prathi Srinivasan and Joshua Levy, who worked on projects like the YouTube series Bollyweird (and which both worked on iZombie). Directed by actress Natalie Morales, who also directed the film Language lessons, which she and Mark Duplass wrote and starred together. (Filmed during the pandemic, it won a Narrative Spotlight Award on South by Southwest in March and is slated to be released later this year.) The creators and cast deserve tremendous credit for how skillfully the wider comedy is skillful in here with real fear and poise This brings frustration and how unexpectedly parts of the film unfold. Much of it is somehow familiar structurally, but especially surprising.
For example, there is a charmer of a scene in a diner who is simply a boy and a girl eating and talking and who does far less to advance the plot than to give the film a generosity to everyone in it, not just across from Sunny and Lupe. There are moments for these girls that are terrible, but also moments that are encouraging and touching. And there’s still plenty of time for the raunchy comedy that gives the film its TV MA rating. (Though, as always, the mandatory note: the reviews are mostly giggling! Your teen would be much better off seeing this for my money than the myriad of stupid shootings wiggling under the TV-14 / PG- 13 banners.)
This is gentle, goofy, cute and An open story about the importance of your best friends, the fact that people often love you more than you fear, and the specific consequences of public policy debates that often don’t even include the people who control those consequences. Sunny and Lupe are wonderful and rootable protagonists, and so would they if the emergency they face were imaginative, as is the case when people run away from criminals or misunderstandings. But of course it is not. And the film is more valuable for that.
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