Although the structure of the central friendship is remarkably similar to that in Book Smart, and the storyline somewhat resembles Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Plan B, the latest directing effort from actor Natalie Morales (she also debuted Language Lessons at SXSW earlier this year, although this film was likely shot much earlier), is about two young women who are more outsiders than the future-minded ladies of Book Smart, and thus a bit more relatable while still being incredibly sweet and funny.
Set in a small South Dakota town, Plan B centers on a bookish Indian-American girl named Sunny (Kubbo Verma, from The Big Sick) and her slacker-ish Latina best friend Lupe (Victoria Moroles, from the Teen Wolf series). Both live under fairly tight restrictions at home—Lupe’s father (Jacob Vargas) is a pastor; Sunny’s single mother is a businesswoman and incredibly protective—but they have aspirations of being something a little more exciting in their final months in high school. For Sunny that means perhaps gathering up the courage to ask out her longtime crush, Hunter (Michael Provost); for Lupe, it means finally meeting her long-distance sweetheart, whom she’s never actually seen in person. Lupe claims to be a lot more sexually experienced but she seems remarkably immature as far as how serious relationships work.
When Sunny’s mother leaves town for a couple of days, Lupe spontaneously volunteers Sunny’s house for a party, which seems like the perfect time for her to finally approach Hunter. But when that idea appears off the table, she loses her virginity to an uber-religious kid named Kyle (Mason Cook), who seems to have always had a crush on Sunny. It isn’t the greatest experience for either, Kyle leaves as feelings of heavenly guilt begin to creep in, and shortly thereafter, Sunny realizes the condom they were using fell off at some point, and thus her desperate, 24-hour search for the Plan B pill begins.
Plan B is primarily a buddy road movie, with the girls finding out a great deal more about each other than either bargained for. After the town’s local pharmacist (Jay Chandrasekhar) refuses to sell the girl the pill on moral grounds (which he can legally do in South Dakota when the patient is under 18), they decide to drive to the closest Planned Parenthood, which is more than three hours away in Rapid City. Along the way, they are able to meet up with Lupe’s significant other, who plays in a band, and just happens to be a woman. I’m not sure I buy that Lupe would have kept that information from her best friend, but the reveal is pretty funny. Of course, Sunny also lies to Lupe about who she slept with at the party, letting her think she had sex with Hunter, who they run into on the road, and he turns out to not only be a great guy but also very much interested in Sunny.
For most of the film, the stakes don’t seem particularly high (obviously, Sunny doesn’t know for sure if she’s pregnant), but once they arrive at Rapid City’s Planned Parenthood, they are met with something that hits so hard that the film seems to go silent for a painfully long time. In many ways, this scene seems to be the entire point of the movie (written by Joshua Levy and Prathiksha Srinivasan), and yet it’s dealt with with such quiet dignity that the impact is like a gut-punch. As the film winds down, its true themes become clear—honesty, friendship, family, dignity, and celebrating what we have in common and what makes us unique.
While there aren’t many distinguishable jokes in the screenplay, it’s a movie that had me smiling the entire time and feeling better about the place kids today have to occupy; naturally, I’m a little worried for them as well. Much like the characters in Book Smart, I desperately want to know where Sunny and Lupe are in 10 years. At the very least, I hope they’ve escaped the Dakotas for somewhere that suits their open-minded thinking. These are incredible young women that any of us would be lucky to know, and Plan B is another indie triumph for director Morales.
The film begins streaming Friday on Hulu.
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