Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) is a confident young woman in 1993 America. Valedictorian of her class, with a full-ride to Georgetown, Brandy lives life via list. She documents what she needs (shower-shoes for college, call her new roommate) and does them to the hilt.
One that thing that has never been jotted down is sex; Brandy is a virgin. The proverbial goodie-two-shoes, her dad is a judge you know, Brandy takes a turn for the hormonal on graduation night while getting hammered with her friends Fioa (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele). After accidentally kissing the hunky Rusty Water (Scott Porter), Brandy concocts a to do list; engage in every sexual activity she and others can think up and do them by summer’s end.
So goes The To Do List, the debut film by writer-director Maggie Carey, a veteran of web and tv-based series. Carey’s movie is a continually funny one, with a dense collection of humorous performances, some of a very strange variety. It finds its center in Plaza, an actress whose comedic skills have sharpened steadily since her debut, aided by her work on the show “Parks and Recreation.” Once merely the deadpan, self-serious one, Plaza mixes it up nicely in The To Do List, playing a tightwad surprised at her joy in engaging in all things sexual, along with a vivid disgust over what comes with it. She is the perfect center for Carey’s movie, which is more Wet Hot American Summer in tone than American Pie.
There’s a little bit of drama there, but only enough to engage the engines for further laughs. The ensemble is dynamite. Bill Hader’s drunken pool manager, Shawkat’s no-bull best friend and Johnny Simmons blindingly love-struck Cameron all have their memorable moments, not to mention the genuinely hilarious Clark Gregg and Connie Britton as Brandy’s parents. Chunks of this are rooted in gross-out or shock gags; not all. A scene featuring Simmons’Cameron and Plaza’s Brandy has its biggest hit via skort, the atrocious jean-short/skirt combo that was popularized twenty years back.
There is certainly some appeal of seeing this story from the girl’s point of view. Films about bodily fluids flying everywhere have occurred starring women, fewer about the awkward first encounters with them. The To Do List isn’t a perfect coming of age story, with a loose running time that could be edited into a leaner effort, like most comedies these days. What lands does so steadily, however, making for a movie one can easily see returning to and could just as easily envision gaining a minor cult following.
The To Do List opens in limited release in Seattle tomorrow.