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DID YOU READ

The To Do List Review: Pretty Raunchy, Only Kinda Funny

to-do-list

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In The To Do List, it’s as easy to root for Brandy as it is to cheer on the actress playing her. Starring Aubrey Plaza, this sex comedy follows Brandy as she graduates valedictorian from her high school in 1993, preparing for college and a seemingly bright future. But there’s one problem: The mousy gal is a virgin, and after being scared by her sexually assertive older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) into believing that her lack of experience will be a major obstacle at school, Brandy makes it her mission to spend the summer making up for lost time. However, because she’s nerdy, that means putting together a thorough list of every different sexual encounter imaginable, including “motorboating” (she has no idea what that means), hand jobs and, eventually, penetration. Though that sets the stage for all sorts of spirited hijinks, Brandy adorably proceeds about her quest with the same bookish studiousness she would a homework assignment.

Rated R and determinedly raunchy, The To Do List is like other recent teen sex comedies (American Pie, Superbad) in that its seemingly shocking subject matter is really a front for a sweeter, more sensitive core. Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Maggie Carey, the movie doesn’t want to turn Brandy into a slut as much as it wants to show how young women can be tripped up by equating sex with love, acceptance and approval. Surrounded by dumb jocks (Scott Porter, enjoyably going full mimbo), loser burnouts (Bill Hader) and sensitive guys-next-door (Johnny Simmons), she remains a likeable, albeit confused kid trying to negotiate choppy waters.

It’s a godsend having Plaza in the role. Best known for her ultra-dry, deeply sarcastic character April from Parks and Recreation, the actress has established a no-nonsense persona that helps sells Brandy’s cool intelligence, but The To Do List also allows Plaza to be warmer and more vulnerable than her sitcom character. (It’s a good bet that April would never stop rolling her eyes at Brandy’s cluelessness.) Carey tries to upend a few teen-comedy gender stereotypes, but one she holds onto is the myth of the beautiful geeky girl who wows all the guys once she takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. In “The To Do List,” that means having Brandy enchant all those around her by cavorting in a swimsuit as a lifeguard, and it’s to Plaza’s credit that she sells the character’s klutziness as much as her attractiveness. This is a charming, self-deprecating turn that mostly finds the balance between the humane and the humiliating.

Unfortunately, the movie as a whole isn’t nearly as nimble. The To Do List basically plays by the same rules as previous sex comedies, and its attempts to be truly transgressive are either tiresome or just flat-out disgusting. (Consumer alert: A gut-churning poop joke awaits you.) And predictably, the movie ultimately falls back on the notion that, deep down, everyone’s just looking for someone to love: Blowjobs and masturbating are all well and good, but if you’re the main character in a comedy, you still need to end up with a suitable partner. Those who came of age in the early ‘90s will no doubt be sucked in by the movie’s wall-to-wall nostalgia — Trapper Keepers! Girl vests! — but there’s also a danger in playing on our fondness for that bygone era. As someone as nerdy as Brandy when it comes to proper chronology, I immediately noticed that Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” couldn’t have possibly been playing at the time of the movie — it came out a year later. No wonder I graduated from high school a virgin myself.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…