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The To Do List - Review

The To Do List

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

RAUNCHY, occasionally mean spirited but mostly fun, The To Do List overcomes its obvious flaws as well as it does because of the quality of its game cast.

Aubrey Plaza (of Parks & Recreation fame) stars as Brandy Klark, a nerdy teen, who resolves she needs to lose her virginity and become more sexually aware before she starts campus at the end of the summer.

She subsequently gets a job at the local swimming baths in a bid to meet more boys (most notably, Scott Porter’s surfer dude hunk Rusty Waters) and compiles a check-list of things to achieve (from kissing to felatio and beyond).

Written and directed by Maggie Carey, The To Do List is a self-consciously slutty affair that should well make every parent squirm at the prospect of coming across such a list in their daughter’s bedroom. But it manages to stay the right side of crass thanks to the heart injected into it by the performers.

Plaza is great in the central role, emerging as awkward yet endearing, while progressing from naive to self-serving. It’s a rite-of-passage, coming-of-age scenario that has been done several times before (think Superbad meets Easy A with some of The Way Way Back thrown in to see just how recently) but Plaza makes this particular journey enjoyable enough to participate in.

There’s strong and funny support, too, from the always reliable Bill Hader as Brandy’s juvenile boss, Rachel Bilson as her slutty sister and Johnny Simmons as her shy friend who wants to be so much more. Clark Gregg, meanwhile, walks off with a lot of the movie’s best scenes as Brandy’s put-upon dad whose struggle to approve of his wife’s sexual encouragement of his daughters is quite often priceless.

Indeed, another of the film’s plus points is the way it subverts genre convention by having the girl be the sexually proactive focal point.

There are flaws, naturally. Some of the jokes go too far (either in mean spirit or bad taste), while certain plot developments struggle to ring true. But there’s always something waiting in the wings to put the film back on track, while a satisfying ending manages to achieve the inevitable realisations without feeling too cheesy or slipping into unnecessary sentiment. Cult status beckons.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK Release Date: October 4, 2013