For A Good Time, Call… stars ‘seen ‘em somewhere’ actresses Lauren Miller (wife of Seth Rogen) and Ari Graynor (Fringe, The Sopranos, Whip It) as Lauren and Katie, two twenty-something girls trying to make it in NYC. A (gross) chance encounter at a college party years before left bad blood between the girls, but when each one finds herself facing a rent crisis, partnering up as roommates becomes a need, instead of a choice.
After a short span of tense co-habitation, Lauren discovers that her free-spirited roommate has a… unique occupation as a phone-sex operator. At first, conservative Lauren wants nothing to do with Katie’s dirty business; however, due to slim job prospects and a feeling of deep insecurity – thanks her ex-boyfriend’s (James Wolk) harsh parting words – Lauren decides it’s time to break out of her goody-two-shoes shell and do something wild: like starting her own sex-line business with Katie. Before long, Lauren finds herself evolving from manager to co-participant in the business, and becoming a happy occupant of ‘planet Katie,’ to boot. But the summer of fun abandon can only last so long before reality comes crashing in again.
When Bridesmaids was released, it was touted in many a headline as being a “bold” statement that female comedians could be as raunchy as their male counterparts, and still manage to be funny and entertaining box office draws. For a Good Time, Call… also accomplishes this feat and is, generally speaking, a hilariously dirty – yet still very modern and charming – tale of female bromance (or “hoemance” according to Urban Dictionary).
It is undeniably a movie that skews more toward younger audiences, since the raunchy sexual humor the girls present is likely to be off-putting to some older (or just uptight) demographics (male and female) who don’t approve of pretty ladies vocally simulating crass sexual behavior for laughs. Miller and Graynor certainly go for the gold in the raunch department, and even though they are only simulating sexual acts through vocal means (instead of physical action and/or nudity), it is somehow more dirty than seeing actual skin. In fact, the few actual sex scenes in the film are very tame by comparison.
While there is something smart about the premise – which subtly questions modern woman’s ability to be “empowered” by sex and sexuality - there is also something admittedly anachronistic about the idea of starting a phone-sex line in an era where Internet accessibility has brought pornography out of obscurity and into the mainstream. In other words: the question of “Who still calls a phone-sex hotline?” did occur to me more than a few times (though that might be saying more about me. But I digress…). At it’s core, however, For a Good Time, Call… is a wonderful (and disarmingly girlie) tale of female friendship, which Miller co-wrote with newcomer Katie Anne Naylon. The screenwriters manage to weave in one or two developments that will likely surprise, adding depth and freshness to what are otherwise more cliched and generic narrative arcs.
Short film/documentary director Jamie Travis isn’t working with much – the majority of the film is set in one location – but his skills for framing, mis-en-scene and cinematography do make this stripped-down indie comedy look like something polished and pretty. Most of the film rests on the shoulders of Miller and Graynor, who prove to be two very charismatic leads, providing great chemistry and impressive comedic timing – all while maintaining charming, sexy, and wholly watchable onscreen personas.
Travis also manages to walk a pretty impressive tonal tightrope: the film doesn’t shy away from confronting the hard eventualities of the girls’ “master plan,” but it never exploits its female leads in any titillating fashion, either. While at times uncomfortable, it’s never outright disturbing; though often gross in its humor, it’s never cheap or outright offensive (in either a traditional or feminist sense). Not an easy feat to pull off.
Aside from the two breakout leads, For a Good Time, Call… is assisted by some wonderful cameos from familiar actors. Justin Long (Die Hard 4) adds comedic relief as Jesse, the mutual gay friend that brings Katie and Lauren together; Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) shows up in several scenes as a publishing exec who likes to keep things real; Mimi Rogers (Austin Powers) and Don McManus (Boston Legal) play Lauren’s oddball parents, who have a penchant for drop-ins at the worst moments; Sugar Lyn Beard (50/50) is hilarious as a squeaky-voiced (and filthy talking) phone operator; while comedians like Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith have hilarious cameos as callers of the girls’ hotline, “1-800-MMM-HMMM.”
In the end, this film is arguably funnier female raunch comedy than Bridesmaids, and a better juxtaposition of budding love and the often odd/awkward sex industry than Zack and Miri Make a Porno managed to be. The two charmingly funny leads and smart, timely dialogue are what make the film work; bottom line, calling upon this comedy flick will definitely result in a good time.
For a Good Time, Call… is now playing in limited theatrical release; it will expand to additional theaters on September 7th, 14th, and 21st. Check your local listings. The movie is Rated R for strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use.