‘Plan B’ is this summer’s premier teen comedy
A painfully awkward sexual encounter. An impromptu road trip. A proven friendship. No, the outlines of Natalie Morales’ “Plan B” are not revolutionary. It is the tried and true setting of high school comedy. But comedies for teenagers, almost as a rule, are made by their protagonists. And with Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles, “Plan B” is overwhelmingly a winner.
Morales’s film seems destined to be compared to Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart,” which hit theaters almost exactly two years ago. Both are led with the sense of timing of a veteran filmmaker by actors-turned-directors for the first time. (Morales has been a familiar face in film and television for 15 years.) The two present a pair of groundbreaking performances. And both bring a funny, feminist twist to a traditionally childish and often boorish genre of film.
But it surprised me to watch “Plan B” how its own thing. It has a rhythm and a comedic perspective all its own. And while most teen comedies have turned to crowded movie theaters, “Plan B” – more scruffy, more R-rated indie – is only available to stream, available on Hulu. It is therefore normal that the characters of “Plan B” offer us a new sentence in the lexicon of streaming which can accompany “Netflix and chill”: “Disney-plus and thrust”.
Verma, who had a small role in “The Big Sick”, stars as Sunny, the high-performing, low-self-esteem daughter of discerning Indian parents. His best friend Lupe (Moroles, from MTV’s “Teen Wolf” and Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie”) is more in control of him than most adults. But his brash style and two-tone hair is regularly ridiculed by his more conservative father. Sunny and Lupe are both strangers in the small town of South Dakota, where their ethnicities are only vaguely understood. Most of the time they don’t care. When a boy, intending to ‘a compliment, tells “Verma” that she “has this whole Princess Jasmine thing,” she sheepishly notes that it’s not the right ethnic group, but “that’s kind of the closest princess we have, then I’ll take it. “
The witty script, by Prathi Srinivasan and Joshua Levy, is best in the first half of the film, largely taking place around high school and, as the genre laws dictate, at a party hosted by Sunny. when his parents are away. If you think you’ve seen enough Sex Ed scenes already, you’ll want to make an exception for one with Rachel Dratch as a teacher over her head helpless as her students take a car metaphor for virginity and run with that. The party scene also has its tropes (a poorly put together punch) and unique touches. Sunny, feeling repelled by her crush (played by Michael Provost), ends up in the bathroom instead with Kyle (Mason Cook), a sincere child who is both magical and Jesus – and Sunny about the person. the most regrettable of South Dakota to lose her virginity to.
The next morning, panic sets in and Sunny needs a morning-after pill. Yet when Lupe (speaking on behalf of the all too ashamed Sunny) asks the pharmacist (Jay Chandrasekhar, the comedic director-actor of “Super Troopers”), he refuses on the basis of the state’s “conscience clause” which gives pharmacists have a right of refusal on the grounds of religious beliefs.
Here, “Plan B” does not get sober, in any case. There are still scenes to come involving a drug trafficker’s pierced penis, an accidental dose of speed and a stolen car. But the film’s inherent set-up is, like the comedic equivalent of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a poignant commentary on the barriers to abortion. Sunny and Lupe drive Sunny’s mother’s Honda minivan to a Planned Parenthood in Rapid City, a three-hour trip that becomes longer and more surreal than most Dakota cars. Here, the “Plan B” sometimes gets lost, but all their adventures remind us why the typical conquests of teenage comedy are more complicated for young women.
But “Plan B” never becomes didactic. Like the “Plan B” message, there’s no substitute for just letting these two characters – traditionally bitten actors at best in high school comedies – be themselves. They are the most authentic 17-year-olds seen in the cinema recently, which is most certainly due to two up-and-coming stars in Verma and Moroles. Verma, is remarkably natural and moving, while the good-natured Moroles struts through the film like a creature in her own right. It will even convince you that Christian trap music can be rock.
“Plan B,” a Hulu release, is not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America, but contains language and sexual material that would suggest an R rating. Length: 108 minutes. Three out of four stars.