Movie Review: The smart kid takes on her to-do-list, “Banging Lanie”

A more enlightened cinema started producing a lot more sexual-flowering/coming-of-age rom-coms from a female point of view a few years ago. And to prove “how far we’ve come” from “The To-Do List,” we now have “Banging Lanie.”

The title’s far less subtle, and that ravenous beast of comic screen sexuality Aubrey Plaza is sorely missed. But basically it’s the same movie with a few pop culture wrinkles updating it.

Writer-director Allison Powell has the title role, an awkward teen in the post-“Big Bang Theory” model — smart and awkward to an “on the spectrum” degree.

She’s “the smartest person in our school,” determined to get into MIT, solicitous of her teachers, especially Dr. G. (Lisa Kaminir), who teaches biology. It’s her classmates she has no time for.

“I have no friends.” That’s not a complaint.

Steven (George Whitaker) she indulges with math tutoring. But like her, he’s 18. Unlike her, he’s A) gay and B) hormonal, all about make-out sessions and such. Lanie is more inclined to beg Dr. G. to get out of “classic” Sex Ed day in biology class.

“But I’m not having sex…EVER.”

Her widowed Mom (Virginia Reece) hangs on tightly, tries to convince her of the need for a more balanced life and to not be all worked up about the future when the present has so much to offer.

That’s what sends Lanie to Google in search of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” That’s where she sees “sex” (reproduction, actually) at the bottom of that famous pyramid chart. It’s “basic,” like food, air and water.” And that’s what sends her to almost-a-friend Steven for tutoring, coaching and guidance in all things social (“friendship,” because she’s not mastered that) and sexual.

That’s how she begins a crash course in dating and mating, something she’ll document (“I always take notes. How else can you learn?”), because she’s starting “literally” at Square One.

“You’d better go on a date first. Try THREE.”

But “don’t guys want to have sex all the time?”

“That’s a terrible stereotype that needs to die!”

A likely candidate (Damian Alonso) is selected, a “Queer Eye for the Nerd Girl” makeover ensues, and here we go.

Lanie is a generic but lightly amusing character in a generic locale (Las Cruces, New Mexico with little local color) “robotically” ticking items off her list, seeking tutoring when she gets in over her head.

“Are you asking me for masturbation advice,” bi-more-than-curious Kylie (Daniela Rivera) wants to know?

“The best scientists go to experts in their field!”

The dialogue can be quick and snappy, but the over-familiar ground makes the picture plod along. The players are pleasant, but a tad on the bland side across the board.

This feels “made for Netflix,” which wouldn’t be a bad fate for the film (VOD now). But lacking sizzle, edge and the spark of a Joey King — the teen sex comedy “It” girl of recent years — “Banging Lanie” tries to get by on “nice” and “true to life.” It’s a PG-13 movie with PG ambitions and R rated reality.

And it’s true to life if life is rife with teen sex comedy cliches, the adults are all sympathetic and even the “mean” kids aren’t that mean.

When the edgiest thing about your teen sex rom-com is the title, the best you can offer in praise is “that’s a nice first effort.”

MPA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, profanity

Cast: Allison Powell, George Whitaker, Daniela Rivera, Damian Alonso, Virginia Reece and Lisa Kaminir.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Allison Powell. An Indie Rights release.

Running time: 1:16

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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