Critics' Pick

The To Do List (R)

Comedy 100 July 26, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
Like first sex, writer-director Maggie Carey's debut feature, The To Do List, is quick and messy, fitfully pleasurable, full of promise but not quite adept at getting everyone off. Here is the first raunchy mainstream comedy about a young woman's quest to unburden herself of her virginity-- with the foxiest bro in Idaho, no less, a golden lug of shirtless flesh our heroine objectifies with male-gaze brio. Except the lust of valedictorian Brandy (played by and written for Aubrey Plaza) is deadpan, held inside, subject to the veto of her shame and intelligence. "You feel like Marky Mark looks," she marvels as she touches the abs of hunk Rusty Waters (Scott Porter) at a 1993 graduation-night kegger. That encounter proves humiliating, but one thing does firm up: her resolution to master sex--and Rusty Waters-- before going off to college at summer's end. Unlike the female characters in previous sex comedies, sex for her is a straight-up choice, something she offers or refuses according to no agenda but her own, making the movie something of a milestone. It's also funny enough, at times, to be recommendable on its merits alone, although there's something dispiriting about its junky look, indifferent pacing, and sketch-comedy characterization. Overachieving Brandy plots out her sex life like a course syllabus, crafting a list of skills to practice before going all the way-- hand job, blow job, dry-humping. The comic high points, of course, are Brandy's efforts to engineer these acts. Plaza is gutsy and often hilarious, both in small moments and when hand-jobbing away like she's trying to loose a bottle's last dab of ketchup.
Maggie Carey Aubrey Plaza, Rachel Bilson, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Scott Porter, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover, Johnny Simmons Maggie Carey Jennifer Todd, Brian Robbins, Sharla Sumpter Bridgett CBS Films