Texas Art & Film's Dr. Donna Copeland's Film Reviews & Features
The To Do List is about high school students, and seems to have been written by someone with a high school mind.  Yes, I know Maggie Carey, the writer/director, is a grown-up—and I even heard the film is based at least to some extent on her own life.  So it is not as if the story doesn’t have some connection to reality, but the plot and the lines for the actors are very mechanical—much like the main character Brandy’s (Aubrey Plaza) checklist of sexual acts.  It is redeemed a bit toward the end when emotions are finally touched upon, but most of the film is a series of sketch comedies about sex acts, shown one by one.
            The actors, for the most part, do well with the lines they are given, and Aubrey Plaza is convincing as a brainy nerd who is stuck in the bossy sister role.  I remember her in Safety Not Guaranteed, skillfully mastering a well-written role.   And her parents, Clark Gregg as the father and Connie Britton as the mother, are fine-tuned in their portrayal of a concerned couple who differ in their ideas about their daughters’ sex education.  Similarly, Brandy’s friends—played by Johnny Simmons, Scott Porter, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, and Sarah Steele—play their roles well. 
            This film reminds me of I’m so Excited, the recent Almodovar film, in showing sex in a mechanical way (trying to be frank and open), but with the intent to loosen up a repressed audience.  (Not really the way to do it.)  In this respect, they are hoping to titillate, but sadly, they have the opposite effect.  I do not think sex portrayed as it is in these two movies is normal, in the sense that people will see it and have “aha” or “That’s the way it was for me” experiences.  My hunch is that this film relates in a slim way with someone’s real experience (as in a grain of truth), then the filmmakers ramped it up to fit with producers’ hopes of what will please naïve audiences and rake in money.
            Certainly, there were plenty of laughs in the screening I attended, so indeed many people will like The To Do List.  These are not people I know, so I have no idea what exactly they were laughing at.  To each his/her own.                        Grade:  D


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