Film Review

MAGGIE CAREY’S THE TO DO LIST — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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How this little comedic diamond in the rough isn’t more well-known and widely loved I’ll never understand. Oh wait, I do understand – it’s yet another instance of a studio having zero faith in its product, and relegating it to unfortunate and undeserved also-ran status. Which is a crime, as The To Do List is easily one of the funniest, shrewdest teen sex comedies that I’ve ever seen, raunchy and heartfelt in equal measure, and possessing an extremely high joke per minute ratio. Operating as both a crass and sweet genre topper and a painfully observant 90’s period piece (shoot me…!), this is one of those movies that never got a fair shake from critics (52% at RT, what the hell…?) and is miles better than most of its competition. In all honesty, it destroys the likes of American Pie, which I’ll always have a soft spot for, and it really makes most other recent laughers look tame and mild in comparison, both in terms of graphic sexual content and honest-to-goodness guffaws. Written with extreme vulgarity but also extreme smarts and capably directed by Maggie Carey in her filmmaking debut, the film is the naughty story of Brandy Clark, the amazing Aubrey Plaza, and how she charts an epic sexual journey during the summer before she enters college. Plaza is such a gifted comedienne, and in scene after scene, her impeccable comedic timing is on display, while she clearly has no qualms with getting down and dirty.

She’s a virgin, but more than just that – she’s done NOTHING of any carnal consequence whatsoever. So, with the help of her more advanced friends (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele, both excellent), her always-having-fun sister (the adorable Rachel Bilson), and her boss at the town pool (an outstanding Bill Hader), she creates the ultimate sexual To Do List, in an effort to not become embarrassed as a college freshmen. She’s obsessed with a hunky lifeguard played by Friday Night Light’s Scott Porter, while she’s mostly oblivious to the charms of fellow employee Cameron (a perfectly cast Johnny Simmons). Also featured in the stellar supporting cast are Connie Britton and Clark Gregg as Brandy’s hysterical parents, who steal the film with a subplot that’s normally taken out of most movies. And speaking of scene stealing, Hader, as usual, absolutely owns the movie when he appears. Andy Samberg, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jack McBrayer, Donald Glover, and Adam Pally round out the deep cast of comedic performers. On a visual level, the film is nothing to write home about, but this isn’t a flashy exercise in style. This is a near constant stream of hilarity, with mostly fixed camera positions and simple set-ups, as Carey knew that her script just needed to be filmed as-is with a minimum of fuss. Sadly, The To Do List never played on more than 600 screens nationwide when it was released in July of 2013, and it grossed less than $5 million domestic. I can only hope and pray that this totally deserving little gem in hiding has started to find the audience that it truly deserves.

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