With “Plan B,” a bawdy coming-of-age teen comedy with a sharply incorporated message, Hulu may be the home of this year’s “Booksmart.” The edgy nature of the material shouldn’t overshadow the stellar performances and timely window into efforts to curb women’s reproductive rights, directed by Natalie Morales (“Parks and Recreation”).
The protagonists are a pair of adolescent outcasts from South Dakota. When Sunny (Kuhoo Verma), the honor student, engages in an ill-advised, impulsive, and extremely unglamorous sexual encounter, she enlists the help of her more worldly friend Lupe (Victoria Moroles) to go on a cross-state search for a location that will sell her a Plan B pill (a.k.a. the “morning after” pill), all before her mother (Jolly Abraham)
“One small mistake can ruin the rest of your life,” mom warns her early on, during what feels like a hundred conversations, a line that hangs over Sunny’s every action for the next 100 minutes or so.
In that short amount of time, a lot happens, much of it explosively funny, thanks to a script by Prathi Srinivasan and Joshua Levy. Sunny’s shy, sweet attempts to express her feelings for a classmate (Michael Provost), and Lupe coming to terms with her own truths, which she fears will alienate her from her family, are among the journey’s highlights.
Even in a notoriously conservative state, the term “teen comedy” carries a lot of baggage, but for the most part, this road movie avoids the usual potholes (and plot holes), offering a not-so-reassuring picture of what your teenage kids might be up to.
Sunny is Indian, worried about her mother’s high expectations, and Lupe is Latinx, so the subtle and not-so-subtle racism they face adds to their believable bond, which feels organic even as the situations become more bizarre.
Sunny going through this harrowing experience after being mocked for having a room still filled with stuffed animals, for example, is a reminder that these teenagers aren’t that far removed from childhood.
The fact that the film comes out as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on abortion rights once more adds to the film’s real-world relevance, but the underlying themes of friendship and discovery are classic genre tropes.
Every year, it seems like there’s a new teen comedy that stands out, showcasing new talent and, in this case, speaking to the times in a unique way. Although 2021 is still a long way off, “Plan B” has staked a strong claim to the title unless or until something better emerges.
Hulu will premiere “Plan B” on May 28.