“Plan B” Review: Natalie Morales Directs a High-Stakes Teen Sex Comedy with Humor and Horror

Spoilers below for the movie Plan B. 


Plan B — a new Hulu movie directed by Natalie Morales—opens with teen besties Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (Victoria Moroles) deciding to throw a party. We’ve all seen teen movies. This party is bound to result in chaos.

Indeed, the party at Sunny’s house spirals instantly out of control, in part due to the outrageous punch she and Lupe make of cough syrup, pickle juice, and multiple kinds of booze. But also because a series of unfortunate events leads to Sunny having sex for the first time with someone she doesn’t even really like all that much. The morning after, she finds herself in need of a morning after pill, a task that becomes an epic quest for these two young women.

The movie follows the oft-used “one night gone wrong” comedy formula where one misfortune collides into another. But in the case of Plan B, it’s not so much that the characters are making bad, impulsive choices so much as they’re being forced into bad choices by societal systems and oblique obstacles to reproductive choices. The sex “education” offered at Sunny and Lupe’s school is abstinence-only, sexist, heteronormative, and woefully unhelpful. After having sex, all Sunny needs is Plan B, something that’s technically legal for her to get in her state and yet in practice is made difficult by a morality clause that lets pharmacists deny access. Plan B conveys the incongruity of this legal loophole with incisive humor. In fact, the whole movie mixes absurdist comedy and horror to great effect. It’s hilariously over-the-top one second and then comes crashing back to reality. Like the road trip for an abortion in the recent HBO Max comedy Unpregnant, Lupe and Sunny embark on a journey that becomes increasingly more dangerous and chaotic. Their road trip to a Planned Parenthood isn’t just difficult; it’s a fucking maze. And it’s equal parts frustrating and funny to watch them navigate it. And Plan B is candid about teen sex in a way I haven’t really seen since the underrated movie Blockers.

While a lot of the narrative devices and the formula Plan B uses and follows are familiar, the movie also imbues its characters and their choices with depth and specificity. Most road trip/teen quest movies have a simplistic and ultimately low-stakes endgoal, but in this movie, the objective is emergency contraception. The stakes are high and real. On a character-level, the movie also plays around with expectations and conventions. Sunny and Lupe both find themselves at odds with who their parents want them to be and who they actually are. On the surface, Sunny and Lupe look like a familiar pair for a buddy comedy, Sunny fulfilling the more uptight role while Lupe’s more of a rebel. But Plan B complicates all of its characters beneath the surface, even the more bit characters. Here, the typical high school mean girls aren’t just mean — they’re racist. Two white girls in the locker room ask Lupe if her unshaved body hair is “a Mexican thing,” and Sunny similarly endures racist comments at her party. Movies in this teen comedy genre — as well as in the R-rated sex comedy genre — so rarely center the experiences of young women of color. Sunny’s Indian American identity and Lupe’s Mexican American identity inform their experiences and choices.

Sunny and Lupe’s friendship is the film’s anchor. In fact, their friendship takes up more narrative space than the rom-com storyline of Sunny’s crush on nerd-jock Hunter (which, for what it’s worth, is a very well executed romantic subplot). Their climactic friendship fight — another requisite of the film’s formula — is as compelling and intimate as the very memorable friendship fight in Booksmart. Sunny and Lupe, despite their differences, understand each other deeply. Their friendship is lived-in and special.

And yes, there’s a queer romance, too. Lupe spends the beginning of the movie texting with an enigmatic crush named Logan (Myha’la Herrold) who she invites to the party at Sunny’s but who never shows. Finally, we meet Logan during one of Lupe and Sunny’s many sidequests on the way to Planned Parenthood. Logan’s band is playing a gig at a bowling alley. Then we meet her. She’s the charming drummer of the band. But Lupe hasn’t said anything about her being a girl to Sunny. In fact, up to this point, viewers are rather overtly led to believe that Logan is a guy. Sunny has been referring to Logan as a guy, and Lupe hasn’t corrected her. Plan B takes that one step further by having the camera focus on Xander, the lead singer of the band, when they arrive at the bowling alley. The fact that Logan is a girl is treated as a reveal.

I can see how some viewers might be turned off by a character’s queerness being turned into a plot twist, but I can assure you it’s not intended as a punchline. In fact, I think the movie has some fun playing on the expectations of straight viewers. I specifically say straight viewers, because I do think as a queer viewer, it’s easier to see this coming. Sure, Lupe doesn’t really give any explicit hints about Logan being a girl, but I think as queer viewers we sometimes have a keen eye for these things, picking up on latent queerness in unspoken moments. It helps of course that the director in this case is queer. Sunny’s assumptions about Logan are probably the same assumptions a straight viewer might have while watching the movie, and it feels like Plan B is holding up a mirror to anyone who might have those heteronormative assumptions as a critique of those biases. It’s basically straight-baiting?! Let’s give the straights a taste of what it feels like to be a queer viewer!

All jokes aside, the romance between Logan and Lupe is sweet and every bit as developed and dimensional as the romance between Sunny and Hunter. Lupe comes out to herself and to Sunny in a way that feels very specific to her. This isn’t some flat, trite coming-out arc. A conversation between Lupe and Logan reveals that a lot of Lupe’s struggles to come out are rooted in her family situation but also in the place she inhabits. The setting of South Dakota is significant throughout the film — from the particular limits to healthcare access to the fact that Lupe considers Logan brave for wearing a pride pin where they live. And the way Lupe’s queer journey touches her friendship with Sunny is similarly complex and meaningful.

Fans of Booksmart, Blockers, and Unpregnant will find much to like here. But while the movie touches each of those films in some way, it also crafts a voice and narrative of its own. Not every joke lands, but the irresistible chemistry of its two leads makes Plan B a journey to remember.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 305 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks Kayla for the great review! Honestly, everyone needs to see the film, when I wasn’t laughing hysterically, I was crying, when I wasn’t crying, I was getting riled up with anger, when that wasn’t happening I was smiling with glee, just admiring it’s wonderful aspects. Great subjects, amazing character development, wonderful cast, a realistic and yet imaginative plot line and unapologetic dialogue. I love how female filmmakers are using cinema (as so many have used it) to show all the bullshit in this country.

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