Our producer Ann Marie Baldonado on the new film The To Do List:
You might be heading to the movie theater to catch up on your Wolverines, Despicable Me 2s, or even your Blue Jasmines, but let me a case for The To-Do-List, a modestly made, yet brazen sex comedy which probably stars a lot of people you already love.
Set in 1993, the film stars Aubrey Plaza (Funny People, Safety not Guaranteed, but you know her as April from Parks and Recreation, or maybe as live action Daria) as Brandy Klark, an over achieving Georgetown-bound valedictorian who things she will spend her final summer before college working at the pool and crossing things off her to do list– things like buy flip flops and a caddy for dorm shower, dry erase board for the door, twin sheets, etc. But that changes when she eyes Rusty Waters, played by Jason Street Scott Porter, an older, flowy-haired life guard that she realizes she wants to bed. She knows she is currently too inexperienced to actually do this (someone yells out “virgin” while she is reading her graduation speech), so she starts another kind of to-do list, filled with sexual acts, some of which you haven’t heard mentioned since high school (or the last time you saw a high school sex comedy). With her pragmatism and type A skills readied, she begins crossing items off the list, with advice from her popular, experienced, and pretty mean older sister (Rachel Bilson) her best friends (including Alia Shawkat), and with, um, “assists” from classmates (Donald Glover, Christopher Mintz Plasse), and random musicians passing through town (Andy Samberg). Also starring in the film are Bill Hader, Connie Britton, and Clark Gregg (Told you that you love some of these people).
The film was written and directed by first time feature filmmaker Maggie Carey, who is part of the Upright Citizens Brigade family, has written for Funny Or Die Presents, and created the comedy web series The Jeannie Tate Show (She is also married to Bill Hader). Carey has said that she based overachieving, Hillary Clinton-loving Brandy on herself as a teen in the 1990s– she was also motivated, successful, and confident about some things, but scared and inexperienced when it came to sex. In Brandy, she created a teenage heroine that knows sex can be an important, serious thing, but it doesn’t have to be; it can be enjoyable and doesn’t have to lead to heartache. Brandy would maybe say it is about choice. There aren’t many teenage girls in film who come to these realizations.
To be sure, there is a lot of edgy, raunchy sex stuff here – think American Pie and Superbad– but the scenes are more shocking and/or refreshing because the instigator is female. Sure, the film could have been funnier, and I could have maybe done without a scatological scene that rivals the bridal store scene in Bridesmaids. But The To Do List has the right idea. It isn’t really a love story so Brandy doesn’t need a boy at the end to make things right. Instead she ends up wiser, well-adjusted, and not shamed about her experiences. She seems, dare I say empowered. This film is smart and feminist, and I keep wondering how my life would have been different– if my ideas about gender and sexuality would have been at all transformed– had I seen The To Do Listinstead of Porky’s when I was a kid.