Sunday, 30 October 2016

Film Review #92

The To Do List (2013)
Director: Maggie Carey Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Scott Porter, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 104 Minutes

Tagline: "She's going from straight A's to her first F."

As you may or may not have gathered by way of the subtle innuendo of the tagline, The To Do List is the yet another one of those high-school sex comedies. I'm not normally a big fan of them to be honest, but I was enticed by this one due to the presence of Aubrey Plaza of whom I've become a bit of a fan in recent times. Here she plays Brandy Klark, a teenager just finishing high school. She's a smart, straight A student and valedictorian of her school, but also somewhat lacking in social graces and seen as a nerdy loser by the 'cool' kids who include her older sister Amber (Bilson). Nonetheless, she does have a few friends, chiefly Fiona (Shawkat) and Wendy (Steele), who along with her sister convince her that she needs to gain some sexual experience before starting college. And so is born the list of the title which features a great many sex acts that Brandy intends to try out over the summer, many of which she hasn't even heard of.

Conveniently, she is spending that summer working as a lifeguard at a local swimming pool where a couple of guys of interest work - her lab partner and old friend Cameron (Simmons) who has a secret crush on her, and Rusty (Porter), the buff college student who she has a crush on and with whom she has resolved to lose her virginity. For all the other stuff on her long list though, which includes near everything from 'French' kissing and hickies right up to pearl necklaces and teabagging (if you don't know what these are, look them up - if you dare!), it's pretty much a case of whomever, wherever. Which yes, pretty much means she suddenly turns into a slut. Sounds like business might well be about to pick up for the guys in her immediate vicinity!

It probably sounds like the script is from the overactive imagination of some pervy teenager but it was actually written by director Maggie Carey who I think intended it as a feminist, female empowerment kind of film. That's great I guess, there should be more films like that. Things are getting better but there are still far too many examples in which the female characters serve merely as eye candy. Sadly though, I'm pretty sure this film isn't really the answer. The problem isn't that Brandy is promiscuous, it's that she's seemingly doing all this stuff just for the sake of doing it. She doesn't seem to take much pleasure in it and nor does she seem to care about the feelings of anyone involved, her best friends included. It's not sexy or meaningful, and it's not particularly funny either.

That's probably because it's a total character reversal, and it's not at all convincing. I almost found I was pitying her at some stages. I can't imagine that's what Carey was going for. It doesn't help that Plaza is a bit too old for the part either. I mean, I love her but she doesn't seem remotely teenager-like (she was 29 when it was filmed!). Some of the jokes are awful too - I had hoped we had progressed beyond poop-eating gags by now. There are some funny scenes as well, most of which involve Bill Hader (Carey's husband) who plays Willy, Brandy's slacker boss at the pool. Her friends are very pleasant too, and Plaza herself does her best but I can't imagine it's a role she enjoyed too much. It seems to have been labelled a romantic comedy but there's precious little romance here, and not much (effective) comedy either. A real disappointment, to me at least.

RKS Score: 5/10


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