The To Do List


So, after yesterday proclaiming my love of black comedy, comes this much broader, more sophomoric brand of humor about sexual awakening. But it works. And it works mostly because it is painfully real and played with a strength of conviction and lack of embarrassment by Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed).

The cast is divided into three segments. Plaza’s female friends, her male subjects, and her parents. Each has their own sub-plot going on that fits in with the rest, but all are in service to the main point.

Shawkat (The Oranges) and Steele (Please Give), as her friends, and Bilson (Heart of Dixie), as her sister, give her a great foil to play against and learn from. Porter (Heart of Dixie) and Simmons (The Perks of Being a Wall Flower) as her main objects of affection, or the affection of her objects, give us the extremes of the male viewpoint.  And Hader (Saturday Night Live) along with Gregg (The Avengers) and Britton (Nashville) bring the adult perspective in. And none of these characters are perfect, nor are they purposefully mean or nasty. It is the last part that allowed me to really enjoy the film, even through some of its weakest points; cruelty rarely works for me in a comedy.

Behind all these performances and story is the twisted, but supportive eye of writer/director Carey. That the main creative hand behind the story was a woman probably had a lot to do with the film’s success. While the jokes were often crass, they weren’t exploitative, they were exactly what the character was striving for, exploratory. You weren’t laughing at her expense, you were laughing with her and the reality of the situation.

If it sounds like I’m rationalizing my enjoyment of the movie, I’m not. As with everything I watch, I’m just trying to understand why some things work for me and some don’t. Huge successes like Bridesmaids left me utterly cold; I couldn’t even finish the film. But this didn’t. It had me laughing and appreciating. And I do think it all comes back to the honesty and love of the characters rather than the humor being at the character’s expense.

Sure this is a low brow, crass, perverse tale of, well, tail, but it works for what it is and you just have to give Plaza her due for pulling it off. (Sorry, just couldn’t resist that last one.)

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