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‘Plan B’ gets an A

June 1, 2021
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Despite the fact that my teen years are a distant memory, I still have a soft spot in my heart for teen comedies. In particular, I love a good buddy comedy; give me all the curse words and gross outs and what have you, but as long as we have engaging relationships at the center, I’m in.

Now, the majority of these films are male-driven, though that tendency is gradually changing – we’ve seen a handful of really good teen comedies centered around female friendship in recent years and we can only hope that the trend continues.

“Plan B,” a film marking the directorial debut of Natalie Morales and currently streaming on Hulu, certainly does its part to explore the potential hilarity and heart that comes with pairing teen girls and sending them on an up-all-night adventure.

Featuring plenty of foul language and outlandish situations – not to mention an absolutely dynamite central pairing – “Plan B” takes the standard teen romp formula and injects it with some real stakes. This isn’t about getting drunk or high (though they do that) or finding the right party (though they do that too) or hooking up (yep – you guessed it); it’s about what it means to deal with the consequences of our actions without much help from anyone except your always-game best friend.

Sunny (Kuhoo Verma, TV’s “Insomnia”) is a teenager of Indian descent living in rural South Dakota. She is under constant pressure from her realtor mother Rosie (Jolly Abraham, TV’s “Eastsiders”) to be a “good girl” – top grades and no misbehavior, the usual. And for the most part, she obeys.

Lupe (Victoria Moroles, “Down a Dark Hall”) is very different. She’s openly antagonistic to her single father, a local pastor named Pedro (Jacob Vargas, TV’s “Mayans M.C.”), and is generally rebellious, moving through the world in a seemingly-unending vape cloud.

Yet these two very different girls are best friends, inseparable since they were children and endlessly supportive of one another. Sunny has a massive crush on a boy named Hunter (Michael Provost, “Saving Zoe”), but can’t seem to get up the nerve to make a move. Lupe, the more experienced of the two, steps in to help facilitate things; as it turns out, Sunny’s mom is going out of town, conveniently enough, so Lupe volunteers that Sunny is throwing a party and invites Hunter.

However, things go off the rails a bit at the party. Specifically, when a VERY drunk Sunny makes a rash and unfortunate decision in the bathroom – a decision that predicates her and Lupe heading to the pharmacy the next day to get a morning after pill. Alas, the pharmacist climbs atop his moral high horse and refuses to sell it to them.

Panicked, the two are left with little choice but to find their way to the nearest Planned Parenthood – a three-hour drive from them – in hopes of getting one within the window of effectiveness.

What follows is a wild and wooly road trip wherein the girls find themselves dealing with ignorant rednecks, helpful hillbillies and meth-addled weirdoes in the woods, all in relentless pursuit of the solution to Sunny’s mistake. But as the trip progresses, the two of them discover that despite their closeness, they still have some secrets from one another … and there’s no telling how the revelation of those secrets is going to impact their relationship going forward.

“Plan B” is genuinely delightful, a coarse comedy that also manages to be incredibly charming. By building everything on the foundation laid by its central relationship, it maintains a significant verisimilitude despite the increasing situational absurdity. Things get ridiculous in this movie – particularly in the third act – and it gets a little overly busy in spots, and yet it works, because everything is treated with honest regard and respect.

(This includes an absolutely hilarious sequence in a school playground at night that involves an attempted drug buy that is patently ludicrous on its face – a sequence that I will not spoil save to say that I laughed HARD.)

There’s a free-spirited shagginess to the proceedings that I found particularly endearing, a general feeling of looseness that fit perfectly with the underlying energy of the film. Credit to director Morales for that, and for a lot of things that work here; it’s not a big movie by any means, but it certainly doesn’t play like a first feature. Morales has strong comedic sense and a clear understanding of how to make this sort of close relationship sing – great work for any director, let alone one making her debut.

And of course, there are the genuine stakes involved here. Many of these movies are built around standard teen bulls—t, but while this one uses a teen comedy standard – sex – as a jumping-off point, the story we ultimately get is far more complex than that (and, it should be noted, no less funny because of that complexity).

All that said, this movie works because of Verma and Moroles, who are absolute gold together. Their relationship feels lived-in and real in a way that we rarely see in any film, let alone one as goofy as this one. Their love shines through even their moments of conflict, offering a surprisingly tender look at teen girl friendship. The ensemble has its share of strong performers – Provost is quite good, while Jay Chandrasekhar shows up big as the pharmacist and Moses Storm absolutely steals his one scene in ways that I’m not at liberty to reveal – but in the end, this is very much the Sunny and Lupe Show … and the film is the better for it.

“Plan B” introduces real-world concerns into its comedy without ever losing sight of the reason we’re here – to laugh. But by rooting that laughter in something true and meaningful to young ladies like its protagonists, audiences are given something just a little bit more. With some great gags and a dynamic duo at its center, “Plan B” should be your Plan A.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 June 2021 06:00

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