FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL… – The Review
By Dan Schindel
For a Good Time, Call… is one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve had this year. What looks on paper like a brainless vehicle for cheap sex jokes is actually a pretty funny and heartsome piece. It’s far from perfect, but it’s extremely winning; enough to win me over, at least.
New Yorkers Lauren (Lauren Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor) hate each other over a feud extending back to their college days, but circumstances force them to become roommates. In this Odd Couple equation, Lauren is the career-driven, neat and reserved one, while Katie is the energetic, messy partier. When Lauren discovers that Katie works part time as a phone sex actor, she has a brain spark. She applies her business skills to the trade, and together the two start their own phone sex business. Along the way, they come to understand one another and become friends (of course).
There’s not much going on plot-wise in the film. Once the business is up and running, the story is essentially conflict-free until a contrived problem arises in the last act. An observant viewer may notice that this is something of an issue with many modern comedies, even the best ones. Often the fatigue that sets in as a result can be overridden through sheer force of good-naturedness and fun, and that’s what happens here.
Miller and Graynor make a spectacular pair. Miller’s lack of real acting experience shows at times, especially early on, but she acquits herself well. As the uptight, fastidious half of the duo, she presents a convincing evolution to a more free spirit. Graynor is a total delight, reveling in the outsized nature of her character. But she really shines when it comes time for Katie to reveal the vulnerability that hides beneath her brash exterior. The chemistry they have is wonderful; they’re totally convincing as friends who really adore one another.
In fact, For a Good Time, Call… might have one of the best depictions of a female friendship seen in cinema in a while. Too often, women’s interactions are portrayed as either shallow or deceptively catty. But here, we get a warm, engaging, and best of all, believable relationship. Lauren and Katie are total girlbros.
And the movie is really funny! Director Jamie Travis creates this wonderful tone of sweet lasciviousness, with filthy descriptions of sex acts delivered in a hilariously innocent way. That attitude infuses the whole movie. It plays like a musical without songs, with bubbly acting and over-the-top emotions, but with sex as its subject matter. It actually creates a remarkably healthy portrait of sexuality, one proudly uninhibited as it is levelheaded. There’s also a terrific string of cameos of famous comedians playing the sex line’s clients.
The film stumbles often. Justin Long’s portrayal of the girls’ mutual gay best friend is pretty cringe worthy in its clichéd nature (although I’ll shamefully admit that I laughed at him more than one). There’s a strange, go-nowhere diversion about a girl who is temporarily hired to work for the sex line. It comes and leaves abruptly, and could go without anyone missing it. There’s also a subplot involving Lauren’s parents, who are unaware of how she’s now making money, which trails off without any kind of resolution. And, until I am at least somewhat financially secure, I will never not grimace at any movie that has its characters moan about money problems while living in ridiculously nice and spacious apartments.
But these while issues prevent the movie from being this year’s Bridesmaids, they don’t come close to ruining it. For a Good Time, Call… makes up for its shortcomings with a ton of heart and a nicely (mostly) progressive mindset.
In Theatres August 31, 2012 (limited)
In Select Cities on September 7, 2012 & September 14, 2012.