The To Do List

Year: 2013
Production Co: 3 Arts Entertainment
Director: Maggie Carey
Writer: Maggie Carey
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Alisa Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Bill Hader, Rachel Bilson, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Here's something you've rarely if ever seen in a movie. The hero is a young, sexually inexperienced teenager on the cusp of adulthood who's led a straight-laced life and who decides the only way to get credible experience when it comes to sex is to make a list of the acts necessary for such an education and pursue them.

It results in lots of awkward and embarrassing encounters that nevertheless teach our hero about what sex is and what it isn't, taking its rightful place in life rather than being the mythical, magical, unknowable thing it is to most of us before we get to do it.

Sounds familiar? Here's the aspect you've never seen – the hero is a forthright, no-nonsense and intelligent girl, Brandy (Aubrey Plaza). Bechdel Test alert!

Instead of all the high school girls being bikini babes while some hapless boy tries and trick one into sleeping with him, Brandy and her best friends Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele) are as dorky and occasionally self conscious as any teenager, their friendship as fragile as everything else in their life.

When they convince her she has to loosen up and experience life, Brandy decides to attack the problem the way she does everything else – using a list. She duly writes one up, complete with entries like 'cunnilingus', 'blowjob' and even 'rimjob', which she abandons when she can't find it in a huge dictionary (in another interesting thematic approach, the movie's set in 1993 – maybe for the simple fact that it was the last period in history when a teenager didn't have ready access to the most publicly available sex education in history).

Then Brandy sets about ticking each experience off her list, her eye on the hunky lifeguard who works at the pool where she gets a job for the summer but with no idea of the candle her friend Cameron (Johnny Simmons) is holding for her.

It leads to what might be the most memorable year of her life – she spends a night as a rock band groupie, breaks into a rival pool complex to wreak havoc, mistakenly eats human feces, and gradually amasses the experiences to cross off her list.

It's like most teen sex comedies you've ever seen, but the presence of Plaza as the nerdy, slightly self-righteous and socially retarded wannabe lover puts a very fresh spin on a very tired old tale. Some of the jokes, and the character of Wily (Bill Hader) – the terminally slack, pot smoking pool manager are a little lazy, but Plaza and her friends have a cauldron of charm between them than most movies in this genre can manage.

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