Published Jul 25, 2013Touted as a raunchy female coming-of-age comedy, Funny or Die Presents writer Maggie Carey's directorial debut, The To Do List is essentially American Pie with the gender and perspective reversed. Breast and pie-banging jokes are replaced with discussions about how to deal with foreskin and pain-free cherry popping, with the men treated like interchangeable, readily objectified objects, much the same way women were in the deliberately raunchy, pre-Millennium boy comedy.
Rather than featuring a gang of losers on a pre-college mission to lose their virginity, this more consistently amusing comedy posits type-A valedictorian Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) as the sexually curious protagonist, developing a titular list of sexual shenanigans (hand jobs, blowjobs, pearl necklaces, teabagging, etc.) to embark upon prior to taking her next life step. She's ultimately terrified of inferiority, having an identity fuelled by perfection and proficiency, which is why her reckless sexual adventure becomes a focus after her best friends, Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele) — noted as "slutty oompa-loompas" by her father — clue her in about the orgy-esque nature of freshman year.
Much of the comedy stems from Brandy's faux-confidence and tendency towards being a rube. Romanticizing the idea of losing her V-card to her college-age lifeguard co-worker, Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), she smugly asserts that she'll "pearl necklace" him, stating how elegant it sounds. Working her way up the chain of dorks she socializes with, she checks off some of the lighter events on her list with Cameron (Johnny Simmons), French kissing him and losing her fingerbang virginity to him, with Mazzy Star's "Fade into You" playing in the background.
These playful '90s embellishments — watching Beaches on VHS, bangs, transparent plastic phones, hyper-colour T-shirts and skorts, to name a few — litter the periphery, adding nostalgia to the sex jokes and aggressively foul exchanges between Brandy and her more experienced older sister (Rachel Bilson). It manages to work quite effectively, having a candid disposition towards sexuality (watch for the use of movie popcorn butter) without exploiting it for senseless titillation.
Sex is treated as an entertaining, bizarre and ultimately embarrassing event far less dramatic and life changing than portrayed by most teen movies. The lessons aren't mired in standard-issue morality about the importance of chastity and virtue, rather the assertion is that the cultural double-standard of female sexuality as some sort of magical gift is little more than abstinence propaganda and male fantasy ideation.
None of these politics bog down a narrative that's far more interested in cracking jokes about accidentally eating shit in a public pool or dry humping on the living room floor than preaching. As such, The To Do List manages to entertain and generate laughs throughout, ensuring that even the minor life lessons that pop up towards the end are peppered with sarcasm and idiosyncrasy.
If anything, the big message found within this hilarious female comedy is that everyone needs to lighten up, which couldn't be a more important thing to communicate to an oft-morally sanctimonious population. (eOne)