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Friday, July 26, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on The To Do List

TheToDoListEver since films like Porky’s topped the box office charts more than 30 years ago, teen sex comedies have been spreading the message that there must be something inherently wrong with a person, who is not sexually active by the time they finish high school.  Of course, a belief like this wrong, and perhaps a bit mean spirited, however it has been the basis of countless sex comedies, such as Porky’s, American Pie, and even films aimed at a slightly older demographic, such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  Maggie Carey’s The To Do List follows this exact premise, except with the slight twist of the main protagonist being female.

Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is your typical over-achieving high school graduate, who has seemingly spent more time focusing on her studies than relationships.  While giving a valedictorian speech at her high school graduation, she is heckled off the stage for being a virgin.  In addition, when she is dragged to a keggar by her friend Fiona (Alia Shawkat), she messes up a possible sexual encounter with the man of her dreams.  As a result, Brandy decides that she needs to get some real sexual experience before heading to college, so she makes a list of every sexual encounter she wants to try out.  Let the awkward hijinks begin.

I have to admit that I was never really comfortable with the concept of sex comedies, which partially stems from my own insecurities as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.  When American Pie came out when I was a teenager, I didn’t really want anything to do with the film (which I still haven’t seen).  I didn’t really open up to the concept of sex comedies until I saw The 40 Year-Old-Virgin in 2005, which I consider to be a truly funny comedy.  If I can laugh at the film, I am able to forget about the awkwardness of the subject matter.

As such, my biggest problem with The To Do List is that it I found it to be much more awkward than funny.  I did not feel comfortable sitting in the theatre watching this film and I actually spent much of the running time wondering if I should just walk out.  This film has a very likeable cast, however it’s a little too forward with its sexual content.  Other than the fact that the film does not show any nudity on screen (even though there are a few scenes where it’s implied), I would argue that the sexual content in the film is not far off softcore pornography.  While its definitely supposed to be played for laughs, the film also tries to make you cringe with some gross-out gags.  It worked in 1998 with There’s Something About Mary, however these days it’s just a lame sight gag (often occupied with a checkmark for the sex act in question appearing on screen).  I also don’t really want to talk about Connie Britton and Clark Gregg as Brandy’s parents, one of whom is a little too eager to discuss the birds and the bees, while the other wants her to wait…as long as she possibly can.

Of course, the film’s sexual content wasn’t the only thing that annoyed me about The To Do List.  The film is set in the summer of 1993, which results in a lot of period in-jokes.  Since much of the target audience were likely in diapers (or not even born) during this period, the lameness of a lot of these “jokes” would probably go right over their heads.  For instance, even though e-mail wasn’t as widespread in the early 1990s as it is now, I doubt many people walked around calling it by its full name “electronic mail.”  The period setting also probably let the film get away with some blatant sexism and misogyny, which I did not find humorous at all.  Did the filmmakers really think that it would be funny to have Brandy’s older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) point to her cleavage and say “this is why I don’t have to work?”  Also, while I usually like Bill Hader (and his character is one of the more sympathetic in the film), he has the most cringe-worthy moment of the the film when he repeatedly makes fun of Brandy’s small breast size.  Hardy har har.

I’m not going to waste anymore time talking about The To Do List.  While I am sure that teens and twenty somethings would just love snickering at the awkward situations presented on screen, I just want to forget that I’ve even seen the film.

2 | REALLY DISLIKED IT

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).