Films aimed at teenagers seem to have developed a new subgenre of late: spawned by films like Superbad, the “raunch com” generally revolves around young teenage boys trying to get laid, jokes about blowjobs and illegal drinking. Maggie Carey’s The To Do List offers more of the same to an extent, with one charming plot twist: it is the girls who are attempting to get laid this time.”
The To Do List follows high school geek Brandy Klark in her attempts to become sexually experienced before college. This movie isn’t subtle – Brandy literally sits at her desk and writes a sexual to do list while 90’s tunes play in the background. Not exactly high concept, but it’s huge amounts of fun. Klark investigates the highs and lows of sexual experience with various different men – all in the name of female empowerment and bettering herself. The film is definitely explicit – almost in an over the top way, though. From chats with her mum about lubrication to straight up awkward sex scenes, The To Do List is never fazed by sex. In this sense, the film is great – it simply tells it like it is.
None of the stars of The To Do List really stand out in terms of acting – Aubrey Plaza is on autopilot (though that said, she’s damn funny on autopilot) and Johnny Simmons, as Brandy’s love interest, is boring and annoying. The supporting cast light up the screen largely in their interactions with Plaza – Rachel Bilson is great as her snotty older sister. However, all the supporting cast are pretty one dimensional. This really hurts the emotional punch Carey seems to have planned for the end of the film and it rings fairly hollow. So does the “female empowerment” idea that runs through the film – yes, it’s hugely refreshing to see a woman take her sexuality into her own hands, especially in a teen movie. All too often, women exist in such films to look pretty and eventually cop off with the heroes. Klark’s – and indeed Carey’s – refusal to play by the raunch-com rules is inspiring. The film is not without its kinks to be worked out, but it’s certainly something of a Hollywood game-changer and director/writer Maggie Carey deserves praise for taking a risk on this film.
In fairness, few Irish cinemagoers will watch The To Do List for its feminist commentary or dramatic climax but for the giggles you’ll get out of it. Giggles will abound – from Klark’s wit and ineptitude to pure slapstick; The To Do List is first and foremost a comedy. It’ll leave you with a little to think about in terms of gender equality, sexuality and “empowerment”, but mostly, it’s just a good time.