The To Do List

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza), from Boise, Idaho, is an overachieving and socially awkward teenager who graduates as the valedictorian of her high school in the summer of 1993. Brandy is revealed to be the polar opposite of her older sister, Amber, who makes fun of her for being a virgin. After the ceremony, her two best friends, Wendy (Sarah Steele) and Fiona (Alia Shawkat), take Brandy to a party and she gets drunk for the first time. At the party, Brandy almost has sex with a college boy named Rusty Waters, but she doesn’t know how so he backs off. At this point she decides to learn all about sex over the summer and so she can be experienced enough to go with Rusty.

Rusty works as a lifeguard at the local pool, where Brandy gets hired to as well, along with her study-buddy Cameron Mitchell (Johnny Simmons). As the newbie, she is hazed by her slacker boss, Willy, and her other coworkers, and given unpleasant jobs including fishing a turd out of the pool. Based on the Baby Ruth joke from the film Caddyshack she is confident it is only a candy bar, and picks up the turd and takes a bite, only to find out it was a real turd. At the end of the way, she pushes Willy into the pool for revenge and finds out he can’t swim, so she agrees to teach him if he knocks off the hazing, which he does.

She gets advice from her sister, Amber (Rachel Bilson), her mother (Connie Britton)and father (Clark Gregg), a judge and devout conservative and makes a list of sexual acts to learn about and perform. As the summer progresses, Brandy has several sexual encounters with Cameron and other boys, whilst trying to catch the eye of Rusty. Cameron begins to fall for Brandy and is hurt when he discovers her list, and that he was just part of her “mission”. Meanwhile, Willy catches Brandy, Wendy, Fiona, and other boys messing around in the pool after-hours so she is sent home where she is confronted by Cameron over the list. He refuses to speak to Brandy again.

Later, when Wendy and Fiona come over so they can all watch Beaches, they discover Brandy’s list and see who she experimented with. They get upset because Brandy was hooking up with their ex-boyfriends behind their backs and also refuse to speak to her. Brandy finally gets close Rusty when they vandalize on a more upscale pool, but it leads to Willy being forced to fire Brandy.

Brandy finally calls and asks out Rusty, and they drive in his Volkswagen Vanagon to a popular make-out spot to get it on. The sex is very short, disappointing Brandy. When she sees her father and mother in the Dodge Caravan next to them, apparently having sex, she becomes dismayed that sex isn’t what she thought it would be. Brandy demands Rusty take her home.

Meanwhile, Willy goes to the Klark house to warn Brandy about something and is met at the door by Amber, who immediately seduces him. When Rusty gets Brandy home, a jealous Cameron is there to meet him with a sucker-punch, and they fight until Brandy breaks it up. She compliments each one out on their good qualities, then apologizes sincerely to Cameron for what she did and offers her own view of sex.

Afterwards, she seeks out Wendy and Fiona to apologize to them. She sings “Wind Beneath My Wings” under Wendy’s window, and the two girls eventually join in, back together again as friends. Brandy meets up with Willy at the pool, who offers her his job if she comes back next summer as he had decided to quit and chase the Grateful Dead before Jerry Garcia dies.

Brandy and Cameron meet again at Georgetown University where they both are studying. Cameron confesses he had sex once sometime after the whole to do list with an unnamed girl but Brandy tells him that she doesn’t care. They have sex in her dorm room and Brandy finally achieves orgasm, the last thing on her list, right before her father walks in on them.


Remember those sex comedies we all grew up on and enjoyed? It seems as if they were all centered on the male perspective. Enter The To Do List, a sex comedy that spins the genre on its ear and offers some new things for the audience to enjoy. This is a film that slipped under the radar, somehow, probably because there aren’t any A list stars in the cast.

What is this about?

In this racy ensemble comedy, sexually inexperienced high school graduate Brandy Klark comes up with a list of erotic activities she’d like to work her way through before heading off to college in the fall.

What did I like?

Plaza. Ever since I first saw her in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I’ve been intrigued by her dry wit. Since then she has gone on to bigger and better things and now is starring in her own film. What I like about this character she plays is that she isn’t trying to have sex as a way to impress her friends, but because she wants to do it. Not only that, but the way she goes about it, with a scholarly approach, even looking things up in the encyclopedia.

Summer of ’93. I was loving the fact that this was set in the 90s after graduation. The music, styles, and pop culture references that were on display for us to see. More importantly, though, is the fact that this wasn’t shoved down our throats. Usually in films of this nature that are set in times gone by, these references take over the film more than the actual plot.

Pool. A good potion of this film takes place at the pool, where Plaza gets a summer job. She gets hazed by her coworkers, including a rather gross scene involving her eating something (you have to watch to know what I’m talking about). There are a couple of little boys running around that terrorizing the girls at the pool, specifically Plaza’s friends. Watch what they do to them in the pool!

What didn’t I like?

Plaza. At a point during the film, Plaza is talking Bill Hader’s character and they get on the topic of why she has isn’t well liked. It is discovered that she comes off as a bitch. Truth be told, this is how she comes off in nearly every character she plays. The same shtick can only go so far.

Support. The supporting cast is great, let’s get that out of the way. However, I think that some of them, such as Rachel Bilson and Alia Shawkhat, could have been used a bit more. Bilson is the big sister and although it is more than obvious that they aren’t necessarily close, it just seems that she should have been more a part of the list and schooling her little sister. Shawkhat is an actress that has always impressed me and I wish she would get more roles. This is one of those that would have been a time for her to shine as one of the best friends, but she doesn’t get anything special to do but just be there. The only spark she has is when she gets asked out at the drive through by the guy Plaza has mostly been using for her list (and has a huge crush in her).

Stop the raunch. The amount of raunchiness in the film rivals that of some of the greatest sex comedies of all time, but after the dénouement, we get no more raunch. The final scenes, at least to me, felt a bit out of place. If this was a John Hughes film, it would have been perfect, but since this isn’t, then not so much. At least the ending sort of brought it back, but I still wasn’t happy with the tone change.

As I said in the opening, not many people saw The To Do List. I would wager that you haven’t even heard of it, but now hopefully you’ll want to track it down and watch. I had a great time watching this and hope that you will as well. Do I recommend it? Yes, very highly! So, check it out!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars




2 Responses to “The To Do List”

  1. Mystery Man Says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Movie Fiend's Movie Blog.

  2. […] comedy really takes off, Aubrey Plaza, who was so sharp playing a good girl pretending to be bad in The To Do List, is even sharper playing a bad girl pretending to be good. She’s got a face made for deception […]

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