A female take on the classic teen virgin sex comedy
Loves: Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader, Donald Glover
Likes: Sex comedies
Dislikes: Cringe comedy, the pressures girls face
Hates: Guys (as the father to a girl)
Fortunately, the feature debut from writer/director Maggie Carey (Funny or Die) is able to smash through those feelings and offer a very entertaining distaff angle on the teen sexual awakening. The story of Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is every bit as awkward as that of any male teen hero who has come before, as the goody-two-shoes valedictorian decides that she will not be going to college without having popped her cherry, and, inspired by her sexually-adventurous sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) and cheerleaded by her two more experienced friends Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele), creates a summer "to-do" list of sexual activities that leads up to full-fledged intercourse.Though going from zero to 60 like this seems a bit over the top, the idea that Brandy gives her all to everything she sets her mind to is well-established, so it all makes perfect sense in the film.
Starting with Plaza, who manages to play Brandy as both super-confident and exceedingly uncomfortable, sometimes in the same moment, the cast here is brilliant and remarkably star-studded for an independant feature-debut, partially thanks to Carey's Upright Citizens Brigade connections, and at least partially likely due to the presence of Carey's husband, the great Bill Hader, who plays a schlubby public-pool manager (and acts as an executive producer.) Shawkat and the adorable Steele are a well-balanced duo as Brandy's best friends, while Johnny Simmons (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is perfect as her platonic buddy/sexual experiment Cameron (who gets Christopher Mintz-Plasse as his own no-good pal.) There are a ton of big names throughout, including Andy Samberg as a grunge rocker, hilarious Clark Gregg (The Avengers) and Connie Britton as Brandy's parents (who have their own fun sex storyline going on), brief parts from Adam Pally (Happy Endings), everyone's favorite NBC page and an extremely young Nolan Gould from Modern Family, as well as a welcome turn by Bilson, who mainly gets to look hot and act whorish. The only name that doesn't impress is Donald Glover, who doesn't get a lot of material to work with as one of Brandy's co-workers at the pool. Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights), who is a pretty good Taran Killam stand-in, doesn't get a lot to do either either as the hottest guy in town, but he plays the part right, and if this is the feminine version of a sex comedy, he's definitely the ladies' T&A.
While the film is often hilarious, as any scene with Hader is, along with the sibling rivalry between Brandy and Amber and the cringe-worthy interactions between Brandy and her parents, what's most striking is how downright filthy the movie can be. I am no prude, but it is surprising to see just how far The To Do List goes in depicting Brandy's experimentation (which results in the biggest MPAA ratings explanation I've ever seen.) None of it is played salaciously (there is no nudity in the film), whether it's Brandy masturbating, giving and receiving oral and manual pleasure or anything else, but it is a bit shocking when, at one point, she has a hard time explaining what she's been doing. But like the teen sex comedies we've seen before, the physicality is played for laughs, and there are plenty of those, while the film also tries to play it straight as far as the characters' stories go, exploring the consequences of Brandy's actions (while avoiding an afterschool-special tone.) As enjoyable as the overall package is, as a father, it's a bit hard to chuckle at the idea of a dad catching his daughter in the act and it not slowing her down one bit. That's just creepy.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is solid across the board, with the dialogue coming off crystal-clear in the center channel, while the surrounds throw in some atmospheric effects and sound effects, while carrying the weight of the film's soundtrack, which delivers a mix of major pop hits from the ‘90s with seminal alternative tracks from groups like Pavement, James and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Everything sounds great, but as with most dialogue-driven comedies, there's nothing much in terms of dynamic activity.
There's a trio of deleted scenes (3:55) which include some deleted plot points, but there's not much to them. During the commentary, a number of deleted scenes are mentioned, including more with Pally, but they are unfortunately left out.
A trio of featurettes kicks off with a focus on the director with "Maggie Carey: Directing Her To-Do List," a brief piece at just three minutes. It's something of an overview, like a condensed version of the commentary. Then if you're in a hurry and just want to enjoy the filthy things that are said in the film, "Dirty Mouth" (2:07) is your best bet, as it's a reel of the film's profanity. Meanwhile "The Re-Do List" (2:55) is a gag reel, which is funny, as you would expect with this cast, but the chance to see Hader doing his Doc Brown is always welcome. This could certainly be longer.
Also included is a code for a digital copy of the film.
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