Despite being apart of the same network, it seems like HBOMax has been struggling to find programming to put on their service. That makes the edition of original movies interesting, especially simple road trip movies. Though, like romantic comedies, they are a staple of cinema and a good palet cleanser. A movie that can be made for any age group really. It’s almost genius unless they did something crazy like make it center around a hot button political issue. Then that would be crazy!
Wait, oh no…
Based off the book of the same name, the movie follows valedictorian Victoria. When she takes a pregnancy test and it comes back positive she scrambles to find a solution. Her only solution, however, is to travel from middle America Missouri to Albuquerque if she doesn’t want to tell her parents. After planning her route and trip she hits a snag when her boyfriend, who knew his condom broke, wants marriage and to settle down while her friends seek to sleuth out who is pregnant when the test is found in the school dumpster. This leads Veronica to turn to the only person she can trust to take her is her former best friend, who accepts. Once they hit the road however it is far from smooth sailing or driving in this case. Troubles with the law, anti-abortion freaks, an unhinged limo driver played by Giancarlo Volpe, and a stalker boyfriend are all mountains they must climb for something she should be able to get done down the block.
Road trip movies are built off of two things, chemistry between the leads and the detours the trip takes. This movie is passable on both. The two leads played by Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira give an all too standard former friends that were torn apart by growing up, home issues, and then eventually societal school pressures. Nothing about them feels very fresh outside of the, what unfortunately passes as progressive, differences. Thankfully one of them is played for more of a joke as we find out her friend is a lesbian and that she’s been out, but just didn’t tell Veronica about it. Bailey also gets more to work with, like trying to reconnect with her dead-beat dad while Veronica has her procedure looming.
The detours are hit and miss. Some, like borrowing a car without asking permission leading it to be seen as stolen and impounded feels a little too normal. Same with a trip to a a very Texas stock car race and carnival. But then it takes a turn with the above referenced anti-abortion people which leads to a full on desert car chase. They don’t find a good balance between just kind of weird without being outlandish and normal but not being dull. That same sentiment can go for the end of act two spilt and get back together. It just doesn’t quite find that center.
As much as those are problems, that’s not what the movie is about. It’s instead about abortion. Well in-so-far as it treats it like a normal procedure women should just be able to get, and that constant interference is unfair. Most of this comes out when Veronica has her mid-movie freak out. Stating rightly how back home she needs parental consent to get one but not to have to child, and just the lunacy of the whole stigma around it. None of it helped that her normal friends spend most of the movie playing “Veronica Mars” to find out who is pregnant and seek to mock whoever it is. It’s message is clear when you get to the procedure and the movie decides to just factually state what it is like and how it will go. It’s a scene that wants to empower and provide real information instead of playing “debunk the obvious lies.” If it fails in anything on that front, it would be how the movie still points to the stigma around abortion being that it’s a few bad apples who don’t understand and just need education instead of the systemic policing of women’s bodies (and failure to hold the separation between religion and state) that it is.
The movie is fine. Nothing that will change the world even as it seeks to deal with a heavy topic in a straightforward way, but maybe that’s enough. The movie is PG-13, and though it is on HBOMax, maybe teens will find it and see that they are not alone or that they don’t have to conform to what is told to them. It’s a fine enough movie for me, but I can see it making an impact on the right person.
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