Film Review: The To Do List


The To Do List is a raunchy sex comedy from the female perspective and it does exactly what it wants to do for mostly the best.

Aubrey Plaza stars as Brandy Klark, a virgin high school valedictorian, who decides that she needs to be sexual experienced before heading off to college. What follows is a summer of checking off a series of sexual acts before building up to the big act with college hottie Rusty Waters. Awkwardness with her family, friends and sexual lab rats are sure to ensue while they try to ratchet up the gross out gags as they move along.

I am ecstatic to see Aubrey Plaza being thrust into a staring role here and she handles the job pretty well. Not afraid to do just about anything writer/director Maggie Carey throws at her, Plaza does more than most of her male coming of age counterparts. Her dweeby, confident and bossy attitude might seem like more of the same from Plaza, but she shows off that she is more than just a one note actress here; which is great.

None of the film’s characters are terribly complex or stray far from expected archetypes, but this is by design as Carey just sits back and tries to let as much comedy stick as possible. Sure I am all for more complex and deep characters, but The To Do List knows what it wants to be and its cast does as well. Everyone is having a lot of fun playing their parts and ham it up, in a good way, allowing the film to be silly and fun.

Carey’s script might be straightforward character and story wise, but there is actually a strong message about sexuality running through this picture for both girls and boys. It accurately portrays young guys and girls, but it also champions safe sex, not being afraid to try new things, having a dialogue with your parents about sex and turning to friends and siblings for advice when necessary. The film is very pro-sex, but it is also very responsible about it, even as it has a lot of fun making the sex acts as awkward as possible; and let’s be honest, sex can get awkward.

The biggest complaint I have to against the film is that it’s pacing was a little off for most of its run time. Jokes work more often than not, but things seemed to always linger maybe a beat or two too long. It was never terribly noticeable, but the run time seemed longer than it really was. I mentioned how the film is full of awkward sexual moments, but I also think it would have been nice if there was at least one “successful” sexual experience thrown up on screen.

I mentioned the cast is game and while Plaza gets the most outlandish stuff to do there is plenty of other fun to go around. Johnny Simmons is great as Plaza’s wannabe boyfriend and he gets a lot of fun playing the fumbling teenage boy that is probably one of the most accurate portrayals in the film. Scott Porter plays the hunky Rusty Waters, but he also gets a few fun wrinkles to play out that puts a fun spin on the college sex god. Bill Hader is where the film tries to hang its most emotional catharsis, it doesn’t really stick, but he is still plenty of fun and gets some of the film’s best laughs. Rachel Bilson is also very enjoyable as the sexy, sexual sister and while they almost go a bit far with the dirty mouth syndrome, Bilson reigns it in and has plenty of fun. Donald Glover, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clark Gregg and Connie Britton are also having a lot of fun as well and I would have loved a bit more of all of them actually.

The To Do List is a fun sex comedy and works better than most that I have seen in recent years. The film is plenty raunchy but there is also an honest and strong message about young people having sex in this day and age. Be safe, be in control and don’t be afraid of trying new things is the code Brandy lives by and I think everyone can do well by following those parameters. Aubrey Plaza proves she can lead a film here as well and if you are a fan of the sex comedy genre I think you will have a lot of fun with this one.

The To Do List is a B-

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