The To Do List should serve as the Aubrey Plaza coming out party. The star of Parks and Recreation commands the teen sex comedy from beginning to end. Plaza plays Brandy Klark, who has just graduated from her Idaho high school as the institution’s valedictorian.
As her friends take her to a party (her first) she is reading off her “To Do List” of items she needs to do before college. They include contacting her roommate, buying a new computer and other pedantic things. To her friends, their comrade’s action in the moments after caps and gowns are tossed is ridiculous.
Then they get her to the party and she sees Rusty Waters (Scott Porter). Everything changes as Klark utters, “Who is that?” It is then that she realizes she’s out of her league with boys and that is something that she, as the smartest person in any room, needs to figure out. See, Plaza plays Klark as someone who is used to being the best at everything. How on earth is she going to be the top of her class in love and sex if she has no experience?
Her college-based list of things to accomplish before the summer ends is promptly replaced by the titular list of sexual conquests that must be checked off before summer turns to autumn.
As The To Do List red band trailer shows, writer-director Maggie Carey has crafted a film that sits in a genre that can be cold and stale. Yet, with Plaza as her secret weapon, Carey takes the teen sex comedy and turns it on its head… this romp is from the female perspective and as such, it feels as fresh as arctic air.
Carey has written her The To Do List script as a smartly crafted world. One can see how Klark would act as teenagers are going crazy around her and she would be so serious. She is the daughter of a judge (Clark Gregg of The Avengers fame) and mother (Connie Britton) who seem, on the outside, to be as straight laced as they come. Yet, there is her sister Amber (a stellar Rachel Bilson) who cheers the cracks in Brandy’s steely exterior and encourages her on her The To Do List journey.
Carey also manages to cast an ensemble where there is no weak link, especially her real life husband Bill Hader. He portrays the manager of the town pool where Klark will work all summer as she checks off items on her list heading towards her goal that is the big enchilada: Sex with Waters. Hader’s decision to leave Saturday Night Live has come at the perfect time. His cinematic presence is both hilarious and heartfelt as a man lost in his own life, who because of meeting Klark and her drive to succeed in anything she does, manages to start the effort to find himself.
Teen sex comedies, as a whole, can be a tricky endeavor. How do you maintain a one-note joke for 90 minutes without taking your audience for granted. Our The To Do List review finds that Carey has imagined a world where having a female protagonist in a sex romp manages to avoid all the sinkholes that have undermined so many of the genre in recent years. Her ensemble is well flushed out. Carey’s lead is a revelation and overall, we would put The To Do List near the top of our to do list for the rest of the summer.