By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Most sex comedies are told from a male perspective. So in recent years, TV shows like Sex and the City and Girls have breathed some much needed fresh air into this long lived television and film genre. The To do List does just that for the teen sex romp. IMDB.com probably has a lengthy list of male driven teen sex comedies, but not too many that feature young women in the lead roles. Writer/director Maggie Carey gives this genre a woman’s touch and the results are hilarious.
Brandy Clark (Aubrey Plaza) has always played by the rules. An obedient daughter and valedictorian of her senior class, Brandy will soon begin a new chapter in her life when she begins college. According to her friends, while she focused on her studies, she missed out on some major rites of passage during high school. Because Brandy wishes to be a well-rounded person and have knowledge in all of life’s matters, she sets certain goals for herself involving various sexual activities that she missed during her high school years. In rushing headlong into sex, she realizes that she has much to learn in matters of sex and love. She also learns how complicated these adult situations can get.
Obviously, this film will not appeal to all audiences. The film earns its R-rating for strong language and adult sexual content. Carey unflinchingly presents the material; therefore, more conservative and reserved people who cringe with humor of a sexual nature should probably stay away. For those who enjoy humor of the risqué and sometimes raunchy variety, this movie will deliver plenty of laughs. The movie can be described as a female version of American Pie, but probably a much smarter take. Carey’s script not only has fun with awkward sexual situations, but also lampoons and celebrates the era of the 1990s. Even though Carey’s film may be smarter than most teen romps, it still falls into some of the usual trappings and shares some of the faults with some of its predecessors.
As with most sex comedies, the material is handled a little too lightly and fails to show some of the negative consequences of rushing into sexual behavior. Considering that the movie takes place in the 90s, the risks of HIV, STDs or unwanted pregnancy are never acknowledged. I realize that Carey probably didn’t want to take her story to too many dark places, but I feel that negative consequences should always be addressed when it comes to matters of sex. After all, despite the MPAA rating, teens will probably see this film and might get the wrong messages. I strongly feel that parents should discuss this movie with their teens if they allow them to watch it, or if they know they will watch it regardless of any parental disapproval.
One thing that this film does promote to a certain degree is open discussion of sex between parent and child. As uncomfortable as this situation can be, the fact that parents often avoid this talk with their kids can seriously set back the education teens need when facing the facts and problems associated with sexual activity in their lives. In The To Do List, Brandy has a close relationship with her mother (Connie Britton) who makes for a loving confidant when it comes to discussing these sensitive subjects. Britton’s performance in the film provides a lovable ideal that most kids would like to see of their parents. As a humorous counter to this secure parental character, Clark Gregg portrays Brandy’s awkward and flustered father who would rather avoid dealing with these growing pains his daughter is experiencing.
In addition to Plaza, Britton, and Gregg, who all perform wonderfully, the film features some hilarious turns by Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg and Donald Glover. Johnny Simmons of Scott Pilgrim and The Perks of Being a Wallflower also stars as Brandy’s close friend Cameron, a sweet guy who pines after her and is bewildered by Brandy’s sudden interest in all things sexual.
With hilariously sharp writing and an outstanding cast, The To Do List is a must see for those who can handle sexual comedy and the expected strong language and scenarios that come with this genre. Aubrey Plaza is a joy to watch in this film and this latest performance has made me an even bigger fan of her work. I also look forward to more work by Maggie Carey who, with this debut, proves herself worthy of directing and writing more feature length films.