The To Do List ***

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I am slowly becoming a big fan of Aubrey Plaza. I first noticed her in “Funny People” where she had a tiny role as a fellow comedian. Last year she was in a very underrated movie called “Safety Not Guaranteed” and I enjoy her regularly on the TV show “Parks And Rec”. Now she gets her first starring role in a movie about a nerdy girl who graduates high school with no sexual experience whatsoever. She creates a ‘to do’ list for the summer which includes a lot of different sexual acts.

Plaza can play either a character that is smart but clueless or a fiercly intelligent character that can tear through anyone. Here she is the ladder as Brandy Klark, a high school valedictorian. She is the polar opposite of her older sister Amber, who makes fun of her for being a virgin. After her two best friends take her to a party she gets hammered for the first time and almost has sex with Rusty Waters. The experience leaves her with a desire to learn all about sex over the summer and hopefully seal the deal with Rusty.

Brandy gets a job as a life guard at a local pool and wouldn’t you know it, Rusty is an employee there. How convenient for the plot. Anyways her new boss, played by Bill Hader, saddles her with all the unlpeasant jobs inlcuding fishing poop out of the pool.

One of her close friends is Cameron, who has a strong crush on her. Not knowing about her quest for the summer, he asks her out, where she proceeds to perform sexual acts for him, not knowing that he is actually in love with her. Guess how that plot line will turn out.

None of this movie is very original and predictable arrives at conclusions that have been reached by many previous movies. What hooked me in was the performances and the dialogue of the cast, esspecially Plaza. I also loved her parents played by Clark Gregg and Connie Bitton. Her mom is laid back and encourages healthy talk about sex. Gregg doesn’t want to know anything about that, but loves his daughters dearly.

This movie and “The Way, Way Back”, another coming of age comedy, share a lot of similiar themes, including protagonists who are deemed as outsiders to almost everyone around them. Both are indie comedies that somehow adhere to mainstream cliches. This worries me a bit as I watch movies like this hoping to be spared of obvious plot devices and sentimentality. But they work because of their talent casts and funny screenplays.

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