Brandy Klark is a hardworking, hard-studying girl. She's kept her head down and her nose up against the grade-based grindstone throughout her high school years. She's gained a shelf full of awards, and she's earned valedictorian honors from her graduating class of '93.
But … she doesn't know anything about sex.
What!? What in the world does that have to do with being a good student? Well, her older sister, Amber, tells her that college is "like one big sexual pop quiz, and you need to do your homework." And when it's put like that, it sort of makes sense to Brandy.
Her friends Fiona and Wendy have been talking about their exploits a lot lately. And there is this hunk of a guy named Rusty Waters who's a co-worker with her at the local pool …
The long and the short of it all is that Brandy decides to go to sexual summer school.
Assignment No. 1: Create a to-do list of all the sexual activities she's ever heard of or read about. (It's a long list.)
Assignment No. 2: Figure out what all those crazy-sounding slang terms actually mean.
Assignment No. 3: Find some guys to try them out on.
That won't be a problem. Certainly not in an R-rated sex comedy such as The To Do List. On this subject, there are no shortage of young men who want to be her study partner.
Does it count that Brandy's dad says he loves her? How about the fact that Brandy jumps in the pool and saves the pool's manager (Willy) from drowning? Hey, she even agrees to help him learn to swim so he won't lose his job!
Merely documenting the various sex acts that fill Brandy's to-do list would push this review into unprintable territory even for, say, TMZ. (Much less Plugged In.) So I'll simply report that it includes vulgar and obscene representations of masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, body part manipulation and intercourse. These and a whole lot of other things are explicitly talked about (at length) and eagerly acted out by the teen characters.
After completing her sex list, Brandy cheerfully tells herself, "Let's get to work, vagina!" and sets off to experiment. Word starts spreading that she's writing a sex manual—and guys start lining up. We see Brandy "practicing" with several of them. Uncovered genitals are kept just out of the frame or just barely hidden/obscured, but all the motions, interactions and moaning responses are vividly and realistically rendered.
The movie's opinion of it all is mirrored in Fiona's statement when she reads Brandy's list. "I haven't even done most of the things here," she gushes. "This is awesome!"
Brandy loses her top at the pool. (We see her bare back and side, and Willy goes on and on over a public address system about how small her breasts are.) She's shows off her underwear on several occasions, once when she's being held upside down while wearing a dress, another when she alone on her bed with her hand in her panties, and a third time when the camera closely examines the entirety of her first full sexual encounter—from initial stimulation to ejaculation.
Crude jokes and giggles about penis size, anal sex, female sexual structure, sexual longevity, fantasizing, circumcision, the discomfort of intercourse and proper feminine lubrication abound. Randy, profanity-filled tunes from the 1980s and '90s, such as the rap piece "Me So Horny," underscore the rawness.
Brandy's mother talks openly about giving Amber birth control at 15 (since she lost her virginity at 14) and encourages Brandy in her experimentation.
Brandy's dad, meanwhile, is the only person in the film who seems to have any reservations about the youthful sexual shenanigans going on. But even he generally accepts them as something he can't do much about and prefers not to hear about them when the subject comes up. For his lackluster efforts to merely not join in the immoral mayhem, he's painted, by his wife, among others, as a rather naive, sexually self-conscious, Rush Limbaugh-reading dolt who's not in touch with what everyone else considers obvious truths of life and sexuality.
As for Brandy's conclusive thoughts about the whole sordid affair? Well, she makes some lengthy statements about not regretting any of the sexual trysts she's had. She purports that they'll be great stories to share with her friends, insisting, "Teenagers don't have regrets. That's for your thirties!"
There's a short-lived tussle as Cameron, a boy who really likes Brandy, punches Rusty in the face, and the two dudes wrestle around on the grass. During Brandy's first day at work at the pool, the guys tease and haze her, pushing her repeatedly into the water.
Crude or Profane Language
More than 40 f-words (often used sexually) and 30 s-words. Crude terms for sexual body parts include "d‑‑k," "p‑‑‑y," "sn-tch," "t-t" and many others. Lots of ugly slang gets employed for describing the list's myriad sex acts. There are uses of "b‑‑ch," "a‑‑" and "h‑‑‑." Jesus' name is misused two or three times; God's more than a dozen.
Drug and Alcohol Content
These teens are not at all queasy about getting soused. Brandy starts drinking at a party by gulping from a bottle of green liqueur, for instance, and soon finds herself suspended upside down while she guzzles beer from a keg. (That alcoholic rampage ends in drunkenness and vomiting.) In other scenes, she chugs a quick beer—on advice from her sis—before diving into various sex acts.
Man-child doofus Willy is generally in at least a partially inebriated state. When we first meet him, he's waking up in a lawn chair with a dozen empty beer cans scattered around him. Rusty immediately pops open a few cans of fresh beer to help the older man wake up.
Several people smoke weed, too, including Willy, older members of a rock band, and Fiona, who puffs from a bong shaped to look like breasts. Willy smokes cigarettes.
Other Negative Elements
Brandy is a likeable sort who's apparently just trying to do what she thinks is expected of her for her college years. Everyone is telling her to get up to speed sexually, and she's trying to do the best she can to make up for lost time. The fact that the advice she's getting from friends and family members is utterly and outrageously wrongheaded never comes up—and so Brandy never even considers it.
During Brandy's hazing at the pool, she's ordered to scoop a large chunk of feces out of the water. Thinking it's a big joke, she proceeds to take a bite out of the floating mess.
In this era of Bridesmaids and HBO's Girls, every incredibly insipid, foul and bawdy "guy-focused" sex comedy idea from the last 20 years or so now has to be re-envisioned from a female perspective. (Think of it as Hollywood's own to-do list.) And in this case, that means it's time to dial up and flip genders on the hackneyed "teen boy wants to lose his virginity" trope.
Instead of a likeable nerdy guy trying to experience the "first time" while his coarse and foul-mouthed buds urge him on, we get a likeably dweeby girl supported in her boy-parts explorations by a pair of sexually knowledgeable BFFs. (Of course, the girls can also be progressive in their deflowering pursuits. The slack-jawed idiocies can still be left to those ever-oblivious boys.)
The giggle-filled feminist version of sleaze that results … actually comes off as something even more disturbing. For adult males the young protagonist's overheated pursuits will trigger some of the same feelings a trench coat-wearing peeper might harbor. For teens it will … hey!—why are teens watching this R-rated raunch anyway?
But they are watching, no matter what the rating says. And the eyeful they get comes with a pretty disturbing endorsement deal: The To Do List doesn't bother to condemn any of the youthful partner-swapping, groping and worse that's seen onscreen. It's all one girl's natural curiosity, teens are told. There's nothing really valuable or special about sex. Or, for that matter, about the person you're doing it with either.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Aubrey Plaza as Brandy Klark; Johnny Simmons as Cameron; Bill Hader as Willy; Alia Shawkat as Fiona; Scott Porter as Rusty Waters; Rachel Bilson as Amber; Connie Britton as Mrs. Klark
July 26, 2013
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose