‘Plan B’ Review: A Girls-Behaving-Badly Comedy With Two Star-Making Performances and a Scandalous Spirit
“Plan B” is a girls-behaving-badly all-night-long road-trip comedy that’s built on a formula chassis, but it’s fast and funny, with a scandalous spirit, and it’s got a couple of lead performances that, if there’s any justice, should have the town talking. The film made me realize that almost every time a movie like this one comes along that has young women at the center of it, it’s been an independent film. In the randy teens + binge party = escalating trainwreck genre of high delinquent comedy, that’s a crucial distinction, because it means that the films bypass a certain mainstream blandification. “Plan B” will be released May 28 on Hulu, and it’s clear that the relevant executive note-givers did not see fit to demand that the movie lose certain jokes outrageous enough to hit viewers like a comic shock wave.
Whereas a comedy like “Superbad,” great as it is, was able to draw on films ranging from “American Graffiti” to “License to Drive,” “Plan B” has a vastly shorter pedigree, one that stretches back to maybe “Bachelorette” (2012), a scabrously anti-romantic comedy that caused a stir at Sundance (though it didn’t go anywhere after that). In 2018, the edgy and accomplished prom-night comedy “Blockers” made more of an impact, and one year later Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart” busted down what was left of that door. The floodgates were now open for comedies about young women who had the disreputable daring and horndog narcissism and porn-star vocabularies and sheer what-the-f—k-ness that decades of movies had been celebrating in young men.
Natalie Morales, the director of “Plan B” (the witty script is by Prathi Srinivasan and Joshua Levy), gives the film an eager, flowing vibrance that’s there from the opening sequence, set to the irresistible fuzz-box funk of Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s A Winner” (a song I thought “Frances Ha” owned, but not anymore), as it crosscuts between the morning rituals of the movie’s two high-school heroines. Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) wakes up by masturbating to a drawing of a naked man in her school anatomy textbook (turning her stuffed elephant the other way), only to have to endure an off-to-school lecture by her scolding perfectionist of a single mom. And Lupe (Victoria Moroles) vapes herself awake, though with her black lipstick and two-tone hair she can’t get past the breakfast table without her single dad saying that she looks like a skunk.
These two meet up, as they do each morning, on the bus, and as soon as they’re together the dialogue flies. (Lupe, surveying the effect of the teasing selfie she posted that morning: “Look at all the squirt emojis my butt caused!”) Victoria Moroles, who has been a regular on “Teen Wolf” and the Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie,” rules over this movie like the second coming of Ally Sheedy, with the vulnerability burned off and replaced by a fierceness so self-protective it becomes its own form of vulnerability. She’s a magnetic spitfire. And Kuhoo Verma, who had a tiny role in “The Big Sick” and has, like, no credits, is a total find. You could say that she’s playing the Beanie Feldstein role, but with her sidelong geek humanity Verma puts Sunny in her own bubble of skewed perception.
There are two essential ways to stage an all-night-long youth-comedy ramble. The first, pioneered by “American Graffiti,” is to make everything that happens feel blissfully random, or at least not pre-ordained; a sensation of constant discovery should rule the night. Then there’s the clanking, connect-the-dots school of programmed happenstance. “Plan B” falls somewhere in between, but at least it gives you the feeling that the characters are acting on impulse, and it’s those impulses that are getting them into trouble. With Sunny’s mother out of town for the night, the two girls decide to throw a party at Sunny’s house, all so that Sunny can throw herself at the dude she adores. His name is Hunter (Michael Provost), and he’s a pensive jock. “Who plays hockey in a cardigan?” says the lovestruck Sunny, swooning over him in the gym. [awestruck whisper:] “He’s like an athletic librarian!”
The rendezvous is destined not to come off as planned. What Sunny doesn’t expect, and what seems all too plausible to us, is that she would wind up in the bathroom with Kyle (Mason Cook), the school’s ardently self-involved Christian nerd, and that they would both fumblingly see no good reason not to go at it. Which they do. But the next morning, the condom he was using slips out of her. In other words: It slipped off in the act. She and Lupe now have a little more than 24 hours to hunt down a Plan B morning-after pill.
If the notion of a movie that sounds like “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” crossed with “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” is not immediately to your liking, I’m here to say: Give “Plan B” a chance. It’s not a film that’s flip about potential pregnancy. But it does deal with a world in which a 17-year-old girl might find herself in the position of having to make a fork-in-the-road decision about her destiny.
Getting ahold of that pill proves trickier than it sounds. The movie is set in conservative small-town South Dakota, where the local pharmacist (played by “Super Troopers” director Jay Chandrasekhar) refuses to give them the pill, which sends them driving off to Rapid City, where a Planned Parenthood should be open the following morning. But a great deal stands in the way of their getting there, like a hilariously parochial convenience-store clerk, or the skanky drug pusher who claims to have a morning-after pill (though it might be PCP) and offers a horrible deal to the girls, which (surprisingly) they take. Just when you think a teen comedy can’t push the envelope too far past full-frontal male nudity, it does. And then there’s Lupe’s dream date with Logan (Myha’la Herrold), the rock drummer she met online, whose identity movingly reconfigures her own. “Plan B” rarely loses its snark value, but it offers the quintessential contemporary sound of girls who know far too much doing all they can to outrace their innocence.
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