[The To Do List]

To my disappointment, The To Do List is not the Movie Made For Me that its YA-novel-esque poster art promised, let alone a Movie Made For Me in the same way The Heat was (srsly). I didn’t love it, but am still pleased it exists.

Written & directed by Maggie Carey, it’s the story of Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza), a valedictorian who decides she needs to acquire sexual experience before college. Being the goal-oriented lady she is, she puts together a list of acts she’d like to try and then goes about the work of checking them off. In some ways it’s a descendant of the Down With Love philosophy; she’s looking to have sex the way a man does: a la carte.

For those of you who grew up on teen sex comedies, it is absolutely made for you [1]. It is a teen sex comedy, but even better because it is starring a lady! Who talks to other ladies! Lady teens! And their desires! Fantastic!

While it is certainly concerning that Brandy’s self worth is bound up in her sexual experience or lack thereof [2], it’s also refreshing to have a teen heroine (and her friends, played by Alia Shawkat & Sarah Steele) who are very open about what they want and are not conflating their self worth with their relationship status. Brandy’s not looking for a boyfriend, after all, even if one might be looking for her. She’s looking to get down with Scott Porter, and whoever else might be interested in helping her check items off her list along the way.

The pinnacle of this for me is a scene where she’s been asked out by a guy who thinks she’ll be an easy mark. It turns out, though, that what he really wants is to get some pointers in the oral sex department. He has a to do list of his own, and inasmuch as he’s using her, they’re using each other, him to improve his skills and her to learn how to articulate her desires. I loved it SO MUCH.

Two other points that were key to my enjoyment:

* Her parents are played by Connie Britton & Clark Gregg, which … I don’t know about you, but Tami Taylor & Phil Coulson sound like pretty much the ultimate power BFF. They’d take over the damn world. Someone write that for me please.

* It was an early 90s period piece. The music, the clothes, the hair, the fucking step aerobics and Snackwells, it was all there. Judging by the audience I saw it with, it was all put in solely for me, but I am okay with that. 90s, man, I am glad you are over.

It’s not a flick I see myself revisiting, but it’s definitely worth a look in, especially if you grew up watching teen sex comedies instead of classic musicals like I did. The casting bench is deep and excellent (I didn’t even touch on Andy Samberg, for example, who killed it as a grunge musician), and I cannot give enough props to the creative ladies in front of & behind the camera telling lady stories.

I can’t wait to see what Maggie Carey does next.


[1] I am making an assumption here that there is a level where the film works better if you’ve seen the right movies. Regardless, this should not have been a hindrance for me. A better film would have been satisfying on all levels. After all, Galaxy Quest is one of my favorite movies even though I’ve never seen any Star Trek. Also, Sunday I sat through the entire Cornetto Trilogy, which I love even though I can probably count the referenced films I’ve seen on one hand.

[2] I’m not entirely sure that her self worth *is* bound up in this, except insofar as sex is seen as the Next Step. She’s done literally everything else she needs to prepare for college, and so she treats sexual experiences like she would a summer reading list.