It's often said that young adults today experience a protracted adolescence, putting off major life events like marriage and family until well into their 30s and often returning to the family home while navigating the rocky shoals of real life. After all, home is, as Robert Frost wrote, "the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Not surprisingly, young filmmakers are mining the story potential of this trend, and this is one such offering.
Described on the slip case as "Garden State meets My Name Is Earl", Things To Do is the first feature length offering from Canada's Dot Film Company. The 85-minute film was directed by Ted Bezaire and co-written by Bezaire and Michael Stasko, who also stars. This film will evoke memories of adolescence for anyone who grew up in middle class suburbia. The comparison to Garden State is an apt one in that both stories involve homecomings and awakenings of sorts, but they travel slightly different routes to arrive at the same place, with Garden State getting there via a romance while Things to Do travels through buddy movie territory.
This is the story of Adam, a twenty-something office worker who returns to his parents' home to get his head together during a life crisis. We know that Adam has rather precipitously left his office job, the kind of soulless place where people inhabit cubicles and aren't expected to think much, either outside or inside the box. His return to the family home isn't exactly celebrated by his parents. He endures a silent ride home from the bus station with his father, who seems at once disinterested and disappointed in his son. His mother ponders when he'll return to his own place and uses his room at home as storage space even while he's occupying it. Devoid of affect, he sinks obliviously into his suburban surroundings and appears content to while away his days by the pool.
His mother, however, tells him he has to contribute to family life. She inexplicably asks him to do the grocery shopping while simultaneously denying him the use of the car because she needs it to go bowling (his solution is to do the marketing in multiple bicycle trips). At the grocery store, he runs into Mac (amiably played by Daniel Wilson), an old acquaintance from childhood. Mac offers to drive Adam and the groceries home, and an unlikely friendship develops between the withdrawn Daniel and the decidedly offbeat Mac. The pair makes a list of "things to do" and as you might expect, the remainder of the movie chronicles their adventures as they set out to cross things off the list (and therein lies the comparison to My Name Is Earl). Along the way, we learn a bit more about why Adam left his job and came back home and Adam learns something that Mac already knows — that the best way to deal with life is to live it.
Things To Do was made on a small budget, and while those budgetary constraints are apparent, they in no way detract from the story, which is solidly written and very funny in parts (of note here is a subplot involving a soapbox derby). A few of the minor roles were clearly filled by non-actors (or at least actors with a minimum of experience) but instead of seeming like a flaw, this somehow adds to the film's charms. Stasko is up to the task of portraying Adam initially as someone who's been slapped senseless by a traumatic event, and one can watch his character become more animated as the story progresses and he shakes off his lethargy, while Wilson's take on the flaky but likable Mac is the performance highlight of the film. In short, this sometimes funny and sometimes painful story of young 20-something adulthood rises well above its budgetary limitations with a well-written script, a couple of decent performances, and an abundance of good will.