Monday, July 29, 2013
The To Do List 
Roger Ebert.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
To begin, The To Do List  (written and directed by Maggie Carey), is not the end of the world, but it is a film that Parents with teenagers ought to know about and recognize as a DEFINITELY appropriately R-rated film (one that does warrant some discussion at home prior to deciding whether or not you'd want your teens to see the film. And yes parents _at minimum_ read the rest of this review, and then make your teens squirm a bit (or even a lot ;-) prior to letting them see it).
I say this because the film, while in some sense certainly honest (otherwise I wouldn't be reviewing the film at all), is also intended to be provocative. Set in Boise, Idaho in the early 1990s the film is about a "good girl" named Brandy Klark (played by Aubrey Plaza) apparently from a Mormon (hence tending toward the Conservative...) family who, just having graduated from High School as Valedictorian (1st in her class) had spent her high school years with "her head in her books" and thus was something of a neophyte with regards to "the ways of love."
Initially, this doesn't bother her. Even if her inexperience does subject her to some ridicule from her "more worldly" (and less bookish) older sister named Amber (played by Rachel Bilson) and salt-of-the-earth BFFs Fiona (played by Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (played by Sarah Steele), initially she takes this in stride. One can't be "an expert" in everything ... HOWEVER, on graduation night she's dragged by her two BFFs to a "real party" and there she encounters a hunky, tanned, long haired, guitar-strumming "college guy" named Rusty Waters (played by Scott Porter) and suddenly her having graduated "with the highest GPA ever" from her high school doesn't seem to matter anymore. Brandy wants this guy.
But how to get a "guy like that" interested in "a girl like her?" Well, "ever the student," good ole Brandy puts together a sexual "to do list" that "upon completion" she believes would hurdle her "into the league" of The Hunk. Okay, who can honestly not relate to Brandy's insecurity / dilemma? Or remember "back in the day" when THIS kind of problem was paramount in one's life?
Was her sexual "to do list" that made even her older "slut of the family" sister Amber and her more worldly BFF Fiona blush (as it would certainly make most Parents/Authority figures watching this film blush) "the way to go"? Almost certainly not. But I'm more or less positive that most of us would understand her insecurity.
But let me offer her a more modest and somewhat "shocking" alternative to her sexual "to do list"? What if good ole Brandy "took up the guitar" instead? What if she used her "research skills" to find / buy an old beat-up acoustic guitar, no doubt previously owned by a perpetually half-drunk, ever 5 o'clock shadowed, 30 something dude with a heart of gold but now with a wife, kids and "responsibility" (basically a somewhat more mature and _going somewhere_ version of the "pool guy" character played by Bill Hader in this film) who solemnly hands "Mable" over to the spritely Brandy, and wiping away tears, asking her to take "good care of her" ... and Brandy proceeding then to learn on her own "a chord or two" enough to play (poorly) 1-2 bars of some Sarah McGlaughflin song (popular at the time) in front of the hunky, dream-boated Rusty Waters and then _batting her eyes_ saying: "Oh gee, I'd LOOOOOVE to play this thing, but geeeeee... I can't. (Batting eyes again) Can you teach me?" Honestly what "Rusty" in the world could resist that kind of a come on? And Brandy would have certainly had Rusty for as long as she wanted without _any_ risk creating a child or contracting some, at minimum, terribly inconvenient STD. Instead, in this film, Brandy "learns" how to give a hand-job...
And so there you have it folks. Parents the film is not the end of the world. But it is kinda limited/lazy in its approach to resolving Brandy's age-old problem.
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