SAN DIEGO – “‘Maggie, are you ever gonna make a movie we want to see?'”
“The To Do List” director Maggie Carey was talking about her parents, and their reaction to her describing her new film.
“And I said ‘Probably not.’ They wish I made a Ken Burns style documentary.'”
Carey used the term “earnest” over and over again as we discussed her very funny new film, which stars Aubrey Plaza as overachieving teenaged girl Brandy who is curious about sex. Like all other things in her life, everything’s a goal to cross off of a literal list, even the vaunted “first time” of getting lucky.
“[Firsts] are always so awkward as a teenager, and there’s an inherent humor about that,” Carey said. “That’s what’s fun about the point of view on the film, is that you don’t normally see an overachieving girl like this trying to tackle something that should be more… organic.”
And precisely because the POV is female is also what makes “To Do” worth doing. Viewers are used to watching total squares trying to have their first sexual experience, but they’re typically male. We’ve also got the backdrop of John Hughes’ coming-of-agers like “16 Candles,” which Carey loves. Her 1993-set “frank, honest” film doesn’t look, sound or feel like those, because frankly and honestly, blowjobs, handjobs, masturbation, premature ejaculation, anal sex, car sex and the female orgasm are literally the touchstones of Brandy’s own “coming of age” (no pun intended).
What age Brandy is arriving at is central to its plot. Her transition from high school to college is about experience, but also about the journey from getting laid to getting properly laid. It’s not a perspective Carey sees much in movies today in part because it takes an amount of maturity and a lifting of male-female “double standards” to tell the story.
“[Brandy] is also 18,” Carey said, noting that her heroine knows about condoms and birth control. “She’s always in control, she’s never taken advantage of.”
Check out the rest of our interview, on hip-hop, college radio and pop in the era; Andy Samberg’s grunge guy and her low, low budget; how sexual “firsts” are like war stories; ironing Grateful Dead t-shirts; her crush on Eddie Vedder; and how Aubrey Plaza’s character is about to get awesome.