The To Do List is a hilarious, raunchy comedy about class of 1993 valedictorian Brandy Klark (Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza) checking off various acts on the hand-written spreadsheet she keeps in her Trapper Keeper. It’s all in preparation for losing her virginity to Rusty Waters (Friday Night Lights’ Scott Porter), a hot college guy and fellow summer lifeguard who does a mean acoustic version of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” And, even with all the bawdiness, it made me tear up. SPOILER ALERT!
If, like me, you also graduated high school in 1993, some of Brandy’s trials in the film from writer-director Maggie Carey will take you back. For instance, Brandy mentions that she’ll ask the librarian what a “rim job” is. Cue me remembering how two other future National Honor Society girls and I asked Mr. Wilson, our young, cool metal shop teacher, what “oral sex” was during a junior high study hall.
Mr. Wilson, with a very serious face: Do you girls really want to know?
Me: Yes. I think it’s when two people talk about sex.
Mr. Wilson: [An answer I cannot remember because I was mortified.]
It wasn’t like we could Google it on our laptops or smartphones.
One reason Brandy is such a unique teen movie heroine is that she doesn’t get mortified – at least not for long. When she realizes her bikini top popped off in the pool, she cowers for a moment. But when the boys won’t give it back, she makes a speech about European women going topless and struts off – even as they poke fun at her cup size. (That reminded me of the time I doodled all over my paper bag book cover with my pencil at lunch and then carried my book against my chest to class. I was wearing a white blouse and was known as “Lead Tits” the rest of the day. I’m laughing about it now; I think I laughed about it then. When it’s one of your best female friends who coins the term, the ribbing is more about the absurdity of the situation than you. Thanks, Susi. Glad we’re still close.)
Other reasons Brandy is an unusual character: She voices the moral that as long as a young woman’s “first time” is safe and entirely her call, she doesn’t need to regret it being with a hot guy – just like she doesn’t have to regret screwing over a nice guy by taking things a little too far or not all the way. You’re young! Things don’t have to last forever! (Or, in my terms, it’s okay that Andie chose Blane at the end of Pretty in Pink, even if we liked Duckie better!) Brandy also has the confidence to ask to be on top her first time with Rusty because it’ll increase her chance of orgasming, and she requests that Cameron (Johnny Simmons) uses the forbidden door when it finally does happen for her (because moral part 2, that nice guy is actually kinda hot and sex is better with someone who cares about you).
So what made me tear up, you may ask? Not the laughter from all the well-placed ’90s references. (My favorite: “You can’t keep dressing like Tracey Gold.”) It was when Brandy and her two best friends, Wendy (Spanglish’s Sarah Steele) and Fiona (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat), made up at the end by singing Bette Midler’s “The Wind Beneath My Wings” from Beaches. It reminded me of my first night at college, singing along to “A Whole New World” from Aladdin with the roommate I had just met that day. Thinking of being that earnest makes me want to cringe, but it also gets me a little misty. It’s actually a beautiful thing to be that open, vulnerable, and hopeful with someone. Moral part 3: It’s losing the friends who’ve seen that side of you that you will regret. As we age, a lot of us only sing sentimental or inspirational songs with new friends ironically. The old friends know there’s a part of us that still believes in those lyrics without us having to admit it.
Your turn. What kind of memories did The To Do List bring back for you? And a parting question…