The To Do List: Girls Can Be (Awkwardly) Raunchy, Too!

To Do List

In essence, The To Do List is American Pie for girls – an R-rated comedy that follows a high school valedictorian’s quest to attain sexual experience before college. The R comes from subject matter, situations and language. It doesn’t contain nudity because it doesn’t really need it – and it’s just as funny as guy-orientated sex comedies that have it.

Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is a type A personality who graduates from high school with the highest GPA in her school’s history, but when her much more worldly sister, Amber (Rachel Bilson),tells her that freshman year of college is all about sex, she decides to apply her intelligence and organizational skills to gain the sexual experience she believes she’ll need.

To avoid the whole Googling thing, writer/director Maggie Carey sets The To Do List in 1993 – when emails were still referred to as electronic mail and Google wasn’t even a glimmering on the temporal horizon. Thus Brandy has to do actual research to compile her list of sexual activities to be achieved, finishing with sexual intercourse with guitar-playing college hunk Rusty Waters (Scott Porter). She is so caught up on reaching her goals that she, of course, completely fails to recognize the sweet guy who’s madly in love with her – her AP study buddy, Cameron (Johnny Simmons).

What sets The To Do List apart from sexual awakening comedies, besides being about a girl, is that Brandy is so much the A personality that, as Cameron puts it, half the time it’s hard to tell if she’s a girl or a robot. Otherwise, most of the beats from an American Pie-type movie are hit here – though Plaza’s gift for awkward enthusiasm in the pursuit of her goal rises well above the better than average material she’s working with.

Brandy, being the astute young woman that she is, is quick to avail herself of the aid of her much more experienced best friends, Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wedny (Sarah Steele) as well as her sister – leading to some genuinely touching emotional moments and some great laughs. It also helps that her very liberated mother (Connie Britton) is surprisingly supportive – though her uptight dad (Clark Gregg), a judge no less, refuses to even contemplate his little girl’s desires.

Bill Hader is terrific in support as Brandy’s boss-with-a-secret at the swimming pool where she works as a lifeguard for the summer and Andy Samberg is hilarious as a self-involved grunge rocker who figures in Brandy’s quest. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Duffy) and Donald Glover (Derrick) are better than their sketchily detailed characters as they take advantage of learning about Brandy’s to do list.

By telling this coming of sexual age from a female point of view, Carey has made the tropes of the genre fresh and – in at least one great pool gag – set a new high/low (depending on your point of view).

The To Do List is a bit awkward, like its heroine, but proves that women can be just as funny as guys- even in raunchy, R-rated sex comedies. Unlike The Heat, though, I would welcome a To Do List sequel – there’s probably some serious comedy gold to be mined from Brandy’s freshman year of college.

Final Grade: B+