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Movie Review: The To-Do List
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

The To-Do List PosterThe To-Do List
Director: Maggie Carey
Screenwriter: Maggie Carey
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Rachel Bilson, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg
CBS Films | 3 Arts Entertainment
Rated R | 104 Minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2013

Set in the summer of 1993, Maggie Carey‘s The To-Do List stars Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Safety Not Guaranteed) as an awkward, overachieving high school senior who attempts to lose her virginity before going away to college.

The To-Do List is a raunchy high school sex comedy in the “Let’s Get Laid!” tradition of films like 1982’s Goin’ All The Way, The Last American Virgin, and Porky’s. What’s refreshing about this slice of ’90s nostalgia is how it approaches the coming-of-age / end-of-innocence story from the female perspective.

Plaza plays Brandy Clark, a bookish valedictorian who can’t escape the ridicule of her too-cool classmates for being a goody-good. She decides to create a to-do list (in her Trapper Keeper!) of sexual experiences to get her up to speed before fall semester starts. Brandy enlists the help of best friends Wendy (Sarah Steele) and Fiona (Alia Shawkat), and the guidance of her skanky sister Amber (Rachel Bilson), to come up with a checklist of activities including French kissing, hickies, motor-boating, and all sorts of odd jobs.

Brandy’s test subjects include the shy, hopelessly nerdy Cameron (Johnny Simmons), grunge singer Van (Andy Samberg), and Derrick (Donald Glover), who introduces the bookworm and part-time lifeguard to cunnilingus. When it comes to punchin’ her V-card, however, Brandy only has eyes for Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), resident bad-ass beefcake (and acoustic guitar slayer) – the last notch in her belt of sexual discovery.

The To-Do List: Glover, Plaza, Simmons

The To-Do List also stars Clark Gregg (The Avengers) and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) as Brandy’s embarrassing parents and Bill Hader as the Bill Murray-esque manager of a public pool where all the characters work and play. The film’s obscene hijinks are reminiscent of pranks pulled in Meatballs, Caddyshack, and more recent raunch-fests like American Pie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin; bodily fluids are spewed forth, f-bombs are dropped, and there’s plenty of cringe-inducing chats between Brandy and her not-so-discreet mother who pushes sexual lubricant like a drug dealer.

In my review of Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring I mentioned that, in many parts of the country right now, if you want to go to see a movie about a woman “” any story about any woman “” you can’t. There aren’t any. Multiplexes across the country are packed with movies like Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, This is the End, The Hangover Part III, The Wolverine, White House Down – movies by men, for men, with little concern to female characters or audiences.

Most of this year’s female-centric films have opened in limited release: The Bling Ring, The East, What Maisie Knew, Stories We Tell, and Frances Ha. While The To-Do List opens nationwide today, it can only be seen on 591 screens – not exactly a wide release when compared to The Wolverine, which will hack and slash its way through a paltry 3,924 screens. Still, 600 screens for an R-Rated sex comedy written and directed by a woman for $1.5 million feels like some kind of victory, as sad as that is to say.

If you live near one of those 591 screens, you should consider checking out The To-Do List for Aubrey Plaza’s unflinching performance as a Daria Morgendorffer type who engages a variety of obscene, awkward activities until she ultimately learns that sex is a big deal, but it doesn’t always have to be a big deal. There’s a lot of heart, honesty, and insight behind Carey’s film, and it’s also a lot of fun. It’s fun to see ladies navigate the tricky, embarrassing terrain we’ve seen the guys like Jason Biggs trip and stumble over so many times before.

It’s gross, and probably offensive to some, but I had a fun time with Maggie Carey’s The To-Do List, a tribute to those zany, crass teen comedies of the ’80s and ’90s that isn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the boys.


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