By Tyler Genevay
In suburban Missouri, 17-year-old soon-to-be graduated valedictorian Veronica is confronting a decidedly fretful, disconcerting aspect of young adulthood: teenage pregnancy. She and her naïve yet downright devious boyfriend Kevin have been safe and using protection, but one night—in a car, of course—there’s a mishap, and now Veronica’s life has been sent into a tailspin. Don’t fear, though, because true to form; this precocious overachiever has a plan: To get the abortion Veronica desires without her deeply Catholic mother finding out, she must simply travel nearly 1,000 miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Oh, except Veronica doesn’t have a car or any money, and she has only three days to make the trip there and back. As in all classic coming-of-age comedies, Veronica turns to her friends, the archetypical high school lot—and, since we all know that every paper reader is the main character, the ones who served similar roles as amiable background noise in your own educational experience. Thankfully, her childhood best friend, Bailey, arrives as Veronica’s savior, possessing all the requisite qualities to aid her Albuquerque quest: A car, no weekend plans, and a love of road-trip Slurpees. The pair had drifted apart as they entered high school, but they’ve come together in a time of need, setting the stage for a sharp, well-acted, timely, often-hilarious escapade that fits neatly alongside other teenage-popcorn-adventure flicks.
Veronica is wise beyond her years, a fastidious planner and detail-oriented to a fault—and, by its very nature, her unplanned pregnancy is deeply frightening. Beyond that, it isn’t what she wants or needs: She isn’t ready to be a mother or raise a family, she doesn’t want to marry lackadaisical Kevin, she is still just a child herself. Like millions of American women, she chooses to terminate the pregnancy—early on and confidently—assured from beginning to end that this is the right choice for her, even as she never loses sight of the ethical implications. She is not cavalier, nor does she imagine that this a consequence-free decision, but it is a refreshing and urgently needed portrayal of a woman choosing to have an abortion without the normally associated shame, guilt, indignity, or regret. The immense value of her own worth, seemingly limitless and vibrant, buoyed by strong convictions and evident brilliance, compels Veronica towards her choice. Apart from one finely tuned outburst about the conservative Missouri State Legislature, the film is generally apolitical, not assigning blame or attempting to moralize about any individuals’ beliefs. Rather, it’s a deeply funny comedy that navigates the timeless formulas of John Hughes while nimbly bringing them squarely into modernity, right where they belong. With a cast that’s more diverse, more female, more gay—and, therefore, more representative of the nation—coupled with a script that captures youth’s travails and triumphs, Unpregnant is a Friday-night, popcorn-and-a-soda, watch-with-your-friends kind of film. It’s sure to give you a dose of that desperately needed dopamine to survive these dark days.
Let me close by preempting those who wish to make this review or this movie into something that it is not, those that accurately contend, “Abortion isn’t funny!” You’re absolutely right. Fortunately, this isn’t a movie about abortion, a medical procedure that lives fretfully in the taboo and outcast shadows of our society, marginalized along with the countless millions of women who have decided that motherhood—at that time, in that way, maybe at all—is not for them. Through this courageous act, they gained a sense of control over their life that is otherwise uniformly afforded to those who get women pregnant and withheld from those who must seek to become unpregnant. In a political climate, both fiercely anti-abortion and—What’s new?— anti-women, this simple teenage road-trip comedy across the Desert Southwest becomes something decidedly more profound: A declaration that one cannot claim to be “pro-life” while subjecting women to restrictive policies that only value their life for the nine months they’re pregnant.