Review: ‘The To Do List’ forgoes romance for equality Special

Posted Jul 26, 2013 by Sarah Gopaul
In ‘The To Do List’, a high school graduate submits to the pressures to become more sexually experienced before college and creates a list of things she’d like to practice before heading to campus in the fall.
Entertainment One
There is such a stigma around female sexuality. "Proper girls" don't talk about it, let alone do it – or worse, enjoy it. But as Hollywood embraces the box office power of raunchy comedies featuring protagonists without a Y chromosome, the taboo is becoming less unmentionable at the theatre. The To Do List may not be a unique my-first-time comedy, but it deserves a huge thumbs up for showing girls have those feelings too.
Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) excels at everything so the thought of getting to college and being inexperienced at what goes on between the sheets was something she could not accept. Therefore, with the input of her friends (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele), she creates the "To Do List," an explicit chart of sexual acts she'd like to do before the end of summer, culminating in intercourse with hottie, Rusty Waters (Scott Porter).
There is no double standard in this movie. Boys (and men) have been losing their virginities on screen for decades. In this case the gender of the v-card holder is different, but the antics and awkward encounters with bodily functions remain intact. There is nothing voyeuristic in writer/director Maggie Carey’s representation of this rite of passage. The sex – and almost sex – scenes are awkward but humorous.
Plaza is brilliant as the straight-laced teen who suggests she be grounded after going to a kegger and getting drunk. For Brandy, this is like any other homework assignment. It’s not romantic; there are no candles or breeze gently blowing her hair. She approaches the items on her list pragmatically, indiscriminately finding partners with which to complete the tasks and get closer to her goal. Unfortunately without Google to answer some burning questions (the film takes place in 1993) and the sexual inadequacy of the encyclopaedia, Brandy must rely on advice from her friends, sister (Rachel Bilson) and mother (Connie Britton) – who are all more than willing to share their expertise – as well as issues of Cosmo and Penthouse.
Entertainment One
Opening the film with an amusing credit sequence set to the tune of 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny” deftly sets the stage for the rest of the movie. The script is pretty intelligent for a film in this genre, regardless of gender. Applying the wit she’s honed on Funny or Die Presents…, Carey produces a picture with clever moments that don’t just rely on crass comments and crude slapstick to pacify the target teen audience. Moreover, even though she’s being promiscuous, “slut” is only used to call out a betrayal, not denote Brandy’s general wanton behaviour.
In addition to the many women mentioned, there are also some talented men to round out the cast. The grungy pool manager is played by Bill Hader, who evolves into a surprisingly likeable character by the end of the film. He is present during many of the funny scenes but he never steals focus, perfecting the role of a supporting actor. Clark Gregg is another standout as Brandy’s uptight father who cringes at his family’s loose attitude towards sex, but refuses to flee from most awkward situations. And finally Andy Samberg has a small role, but the shock of his appearance is half the fun so that’s all that will be said on the matter.
Like any teen sex comedy, it panders to the lowest common denominator more than once; but the performances and approach put it a notch above the rest. Rather than attempt to be different, Carey strives to be the same.
Director: Maggie Carey
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons and Bill Hader