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Movie Review: 'Plan B' Looks At An Important Issue Through A Familiar Genre

There’s a kind of movie we all know well—I’ll call it a “quest” comedy—where something causes our heroes to venture out to find something or someone, and along the way they get into all sorts of hijinks that keep pushing their goal just out of reach. They’re usually teens or college kids, looking for a party, or drugs, or something that ought to be easy to find, but isn’t. It’s the setup for many a sex comedy, although sometimes it also results in the delirious absurdity of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.


The new movie Plan B is some of all of those things, and a bit more. The movie follows Sunny, a high-achieving 17-year-old Indian American in South Dakota, and her friend Lupe, a Latina whose quasi-punk leanings disturb her pastor father. Sunny has a crush on a boy, and one weekend when her mother is out of town, she throws a party, hoping the boy will come and she can, um, get to know him better. So to speak. It doesn’t exactly work out that way, Sunny gets drunk and has sex with another boy, and when she panics the next morning, she and Lupe go out to get Sunny the morning-after pill, which sets the “quest” in motion.


The requisite insanity ensues, but the movie does also take seriously the issue of barriers to access of contraception and reproductive care—it’s joked about, but it’s not played as a joke. These kinds of movies are made up of comedic set pieces, and the success rate here varies wildly, although that comes with the territory. Much of the humor is very frank about sex, with at least one scene that’s exceedingly graphic, but give the movie credit for not pretending teenagers don’t know about sex. Director Natalie Morales does lose control over tone at times, and tries too hard to tell us what’s very important, but she does care enough about her characters that it’s forgivable. And, well, these are important issues, but that doesn’t also mean we can’t have some fun.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.