The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Of all the movies I’ve reviewed this year, I never would have anticipated sitting down to watch a comedy about two teenage girls taking a road trip to an abortion clinic, but here we are!
Unpregnant, directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, starts out similarly to Jason Reitman’s Juno and seems to pay a sort of tribute to it in that way, acknowledging how the 2007 film paved the way for films like this to exist now. I think the storyline of Veronica and Bailey’s rekindled friendship is sharp and will resonate with girls in that age group. However there are moments where the message of the story confuses progressiveness with substance. It feels like the film is screaming at us through its characters because they feel there are people who need to hear it, which is understandable. Personally, it just didn’t do much for me in terms of nuance. It’s trying really hard to convince me that yes, it should be easier for young girls to get abortions without question, but take out the abortion part and it’s just a funny buddy comedy. Your opinion on this movie is dependent on your alignment with its political bias and it hinges on this opinion with sadly no other tricks up its sleeve.
Based on the book of the same name written by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan, Unpregnant begins with high schooler Veronica, aka Ronnie, in a bathroom stall at school awaiting the results from a pregnancy test when it suddenly flies from her hand out of the stall to the middle of the bathroom. When someone walks in and picks it up and tries to be nice, Veronica tries to disguise her voice, but the person immediately recognizes her. This person is none other than her old best friend Bailey. The two have an awkward convo and Bailey agrees to chuck it, only for it to be found in the dumpster by the recycling club thus creating a rumor frenzy about who it belongs to. Veronica can’t tell her friends because they’re already judging the unknown test taker, and her boyfriend is surely no help either as he wants to start a family asap and doesn’t listen to her at all. She shows up on Bailey’s porch begging her to drive her to an Albuquerque clinic due to the parental consent law in Missouri. Bailey agrees, and the two get in and out of many obstacles along the way.
Other than what I’ve said before about the messaging of the film, the script itself is well written. I enjoyed a lot of the dialogue throughout, and the formula works. We find out later why they stopped being friends and it's a very important scene of two young girls who were once each other’s person, with now casual whatever memories.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Haley Lu Richardson as Veronica and Barbie Ferreira as Bailey are absolute rockstars. I think the fact that Veronica and Bailey are ex friends from the get-go is extremely helpful in that they very much still understand one another as people and can see right through each other, which ultimately makes their dynamic feel organic. One of my main issues with the film is that in three very important moments of crisis, three of the only four black characters in the film are the ones that save their butts a little too conveniently, and then are never seen again. One such side character is the wonderful Giancarlo Esposito as Bob, who also drives the girls around in a limo at one point. I’m always happy to see representation in film, but in 2020 I’m a little more keen to notice the black savior trope as a cliché.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
'Unpregnant' Is Wildly Quotable and Empowering...
One of the most memorable aspects for me are the girls’ costumes. Bailey’s black clothes with colorful designs and her colored hair match her personality. Her gym shorts are actually quite close to what I wore in high school pretty much all the time. Veronica hangs with the cool crowd and feels the need to seem pure to everyone so she wears basic pastel, light colors that match this image she is trying to portray. In the middle of the film, Veronica switches her shirt out to an old band tee, which makes her and Bailey look like they’re in the same group once again. The overall look of the film is fine. The production design works well with the overall warm tone, and a scene towards the end in a flower shop stands out as one of my favorite sets.
Unpregnant (2020) | HBO MAX
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is overall upbeat and hopeful. For example, in the scene where Veronica is collecting the money around her room, the music tells you she is making a leap and is determined to take care of the situation. It’s a great moment of the score, really pushing the narrative in a scene. The soundtrack is incredible. The use of Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson was not only incredibly nostalgic for me but very poetic for the girls’ relationship.
I’ve sat on this film for a couple days trying to grapple with how exactly I felt. I agree with the message the film is conveying, but it’s also possible that it doesn’t really woo me. I don’t want to say I don’t like the movie and then get crucified that I must not be feminist enough. That shouldn’t be a thing that lives in our society, but it does. This is just my honest criticism. It isn’t a bad film at all. It just seems like without its progressive political stance, this movie just doesn’t have a whole lot for me. I know for a fact many people are going to find it wildy quotable and entertaining and empowering, but some may find themselves wishing for a little more. If Unpregnant sounds like your jam, it’s definitely worth a watch. It's streaming on HBO Max starting Sept 10.