For a Good Time, Call... (United States, 2012)

September 07, 2012
A movie review by James Berardinelli
For a Good Time, Call... Poster

For a Good Time, Call... offers an enjoyable, if ultimately forgettable, 90 minutes. A fusion of the suddenly popular "girls behaving badly" subgenre with the female version of the so-called "bromance," it offers plenty of laughs and goodwill. Unfortunately, the basic storyline is pure sit-com with a contrived set-up and a quick, facile resolution. Although the narrative bar is necessarily lower for comedies than for more serious endeavors, a desire on the part of the filmmakers for this movie to evidence a satisfying, dramatic element is at least partially undercut by the way things begin and end.

The film, directed by Jamie Travis from a screenplay by Katie Anne Naylon and co-star Lauren Anne Miller, showcases an old-fashioned '90s indie style. The look is clean and simple, the sets are limited (with a majority of the action taking place inside an apartment), the dialogue is brisk, and there are an abundance of cameos by recognizable actors. The biggest problem is the ending, which is not only forced but tries too hard to be clever with double-entendre laden lines. Okay, we understand that the movie has fun inserting the platonic friendship of two straight women into a standard-order romantic comedy plot; there's no need to overemphasize it with dialogue that would have been at home in an R-rated episode of Three's Company.

At college, strait-laced Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller) and party girl Katie (Ari Graynor) weren't exactly best friends. In fact, after an unfortunate incident involving a Styrofoam cup full of pee, they didn't want anything to do with one another. Ten years later, in a time of mutual need, their friend, Jesse (Justin Long), forces a reunion. After a painful breakup, Lauren needs to find a place to live. Meanwhile, Katie can no longer afford her Gramercy Park apartment once its rent control status has been revoked. So the two best enemies become roomies. After Lauren loses her job, she and Katie decide to go into business together - as phone sex operators. The business model is simple and lucrative, and soon meeting the rent is no problem. As Lauren teaches Katie how to run a successful business and Katie helps Lauren shed her inhibitions, they bond and become friends.

There are times when For a Good Time, Call... seems stuck in a time warp. The phone sex business, hot in the '80s and '90s, has cooled considerably in the years since, supplanted in large part by computer sex of all varieties. The movie might have worked better as a period piece but it's clearly intended to be happening circa 2012. Many of the phone sex scenes are hilarious, especially those featuring Kevin Smith as a naughty cabbie (the punch line is great) and Seth Rogen as an airplane pilot looking for a threesome. Much of the comedy, as one would expect, is raunchy and sex-based but I found it to be more consistently funny than the content of Bridesmaids, for example.

For a Good Time, Call... clearly wants us to become invested in the relationship that develops between the two leads, but that only works to a degree. The chemistry between Lauren Anne Miller and Ari Graynor is fickle - some scenes are effective, others are not. We probably would have benefitted with more scenes of the two having fun together. The short running time demands that things move too quickly and the ending is muddled and confusing. Also unsatisfying is Katie's relationship with a caller (Mark Webber) that could have been strengthened by more screen time. The obligatory "break up" between Lauren and Katie drips with artifice.

Miller and Graynor clearly had a lot of fun making this movie, and it shows. Director Jamie Travis stands back and lets them play off one another and, when mandatory plot points don't interfere with their interaction, the result is infectious. The film's attempts to satirize the whole bromance/romantic comedy genre might have worked better with a more polished screenplay. There are times when For a Good Time, Call... suffers from an identity crisis. And if the most artificial elements are intended to be satirical, they are not well conveyed as such. The film is worth seeing for the humor and for its high level of energy, but it falls short of being the "complete package." It's probably a better pick for home viewing than a trip to a theater.

For a Good Time, Call... (United States, 2012)

Director: Jamie Travis
Cast: Lauren Anne Miller, Ari Graynor, Justin Long, James Wolk, Mark Webber
Screenplay: Lauren Anne Miller, Katie Anne Naylon
Cinematography: James Laxton
Music: John Swihart
U.S. Distributor: Focus Features
Run Time: 1:25
U.S. Release Date: 2012-08-31
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Drugs)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1