the to do list 1

The To Do List Review: Sexy Fun at the Pool

the to do list 2The To Do List stars Aubrey Plaza as Brandy Klark, a girl with her whole life organized and ready to go, until she meets Rusty Waters. But she’s spent so much time on academia and planning that she’s woefully unprepared for lust at first sight. After a talk with her older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson), she realizes that Rusty Waters could never want a girl who’s so inexperienced in matters of sex. So she handles it just like she’s done everything else in her life: she makes a list and starts crossing off items as best she can.

This comedy is set in the 90’s, because that’s when the director grew up and the film is loosely based on her experiences. Whether you believe any of the characters has just graduated high school is a whole different matter, but it’s not the first or last film to use older actors to portray high schoolers and it’s something you don’t really think about once the film gets rolling.

A lot of the comedy in To Do List comes directly from Aubrey Plaza and her deadpan portrayal of Brandy, and also her single-minded determination to cross items off of her list. She’s funny in her own right, but she also acts as a straight woman for a lot of jokes, which keeps her on a human level and allows the audience to laugh with her at times and at her at others, without ruining the character. Some of the situations are humiliating, but because Brandy never lets her determination waver, we never view her character as a fool, no matter how ridiculous the stuff is that happens to her.

the to do list 3But while Brandy may be the main funny character, she’s not the only one. Clark Gregg is one of the standouts as Brandy’s dad, a man who’s uptight about sex even with his own wife and who can’t bear the thought of someone touching either of his daughters. He’s got a couple ‘dad vs sex’ moments that had the entire theater cracking up. His wife, played by Connie Britton is a lot more liberal, even going so far as to provide Brandy with certain items to make the first time a bit more comfortable.

Willy (Bill Hader) is the manager at the pool where Brandy works. He’s a lovable failure who lives in the lifeguard office and whose work ethic is the total opposite of Brandy’s. He starts off as just a boss but he and Brandy develop a rapport and eventually you feel like they become actual friends despite their personality differences. They both represent something the other needs to learn a little bit about. He also manages to give new meaning to the term ‘coitus interruptus’ with a certain other character that isn’t Brandy.

Brandy has two best friends, Wendy (Sarah Steele) is consumed with the idea of watching Beaches on videotape before they all depart for college, and Fiona (Alia Shawkat) who’s more interested in seeing Brandy finish off her list. They have a few funny bits, but they’re mostly there to teach Brandy a few things about male-female interaction and to show her what happens when you do stuff with someone your friend is really interested in. Because, as you would expect from someone who makes a sex list, there are facets of human relationships that just “doing stuff” with a boy doesn’t teach you, and that’s really what Brandy needs to learn, not the acts of sex, but the emotional landscape behind them.

There are tons of really funny moments in The To Do List. Some are crude and gross, others are just plain comedy gold. Through it all, Brandy’s deadpan character never wavers for long, if at all, until one scene at the very end of the film and that makes it all worth it.