The To Do List is a filthy romantic comedy, but it’s also a strong piece of feminist film that reverses the standards of the genre. Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) is a straight-A student, a girl so focused on a career and her post-graduation schooling that she hasn’t made time for any type of sexual experiences. Her friends, played by Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele, encourage her to attend a graduation party and get drunk for the first time; she does, and makes out with a hippie guitarist, Rusty (Scott Porter). She hopes to have sex with him, but she also makes a “to-do list” of all the things she must achieve before going to school. Her sister, Amber (Rachel Bilson), helps her understand the ways of the land, and Brandy gets a job at a pool owned by Willy (Bill Hader) to also get closer to Rusty.
The film’s candid approach to sexuality is laudable. Where most films scorn a woman for expressing her sexual desires, Brandy is shown as a girl who’s merely honing in on her sexual potential. It’s a remarkable exploration that’s filled with incredibly dirty jokes; this might be the raunchiest film I’ve seen this year (more so than This is the End, and that’s saying something), but that isn’t meant as an insult. Quite the contrary, for most of the movie’s raunchy bits work wonderfully. There are easy outs that the movie takes, including some poop jokes (one of which is directly linked to Caddyshack, intentionally so), but most of its jokes are often hilarious, largely due to the tremendous comedic cast.
Maggie Carey’s film, her debut, shows her potential as a comedic director. She starts with a bitingly self-aware commentary on the male horndogs that typically dominate the genre, simply showing us not only how much funnier women can be in the leads of a raunchy comedy, but that it’s not a big deal. The movie often falls into the clichés of the genre it wants to poke fun at, but it’s forgivable due to its rewarding nature. No matter how inconsistent the film may be, I’ll take Bill Hader making perverted jokes over most comedies nowadays. Aubrey Plaza also reminds us that she deserves to be a star, as do most of the actors in this film; they’re funny, the film’s funny, and that’s all that matters.
Grade: ★★★½ (out of 5)