For a Good Time, Call…
When Bridesmaids came out last year it was a watershed for female-centered R-rated comedies. And while follow-ons like What’s Your Number may have been good, none have really been great in a way that will keep this trend alive. That is, until For a Good Time, Call…, with its red-band trailer evidently too risqué for Apple’s site. It not only capitalizes on the breathing room Bridesmaids opened up, it easily proves itself the superior film.
As the story goes, co-writer Katie Anne Naylon based the script on some of her own experiences working a phone sex line, and there’s a lot of randy talk that goes along with that, but surprisingly little scatological raunch; where Bridesmaids wooed the Hangover crowd, For a Good Time, Call… earns its rating with a frank, fresh, and funny take on sexuality. And female sexuality, that most unsettling of topics to those who decide what is fit for consumption.
We start with a pretty standard Odd Couple scenario: Lauren Powell (Lauren Miller, who co-wrote the script with Naylon) and Katie Steel (Ari Graynor) are forced to share an apartment overlooking New York’s Gramercy Park. They’ve been matched up by their mutual gay friend, Jesse (Justin Long), despite hating each other over an Incident from their college days, about which the less said the better.
Lauren may be — as is remarked offhand — Jewish, but she’s one of the most WASPy Jews I’ve ever seen, with uptight, rich parents to match (Mimi Rogers and Don McManus), and an even more WASPy boyfriend, Charlie (James Wolk) who dumps and evicts her right before flying off to Italy. On top of that, her boss closes up shop and when she interviews for her new dream job, the interviewer (Nia Vardalos) laughs off her strident overachieving and tells her that the position was filled.
Katie, on the other hand, is a giant mess who barely scraped enough together to cover her late bubbe’s apartment, but the rent control is ending. On top of taking a barely-tolerated roommate, she does nail art, hands out fliers, and takes orders at a Chinese restaurant.
Oh yes, and works nights as a phone sex operator.
Lauren, up against her own wall, sees that Katie can do much better by going independent. She sets up a landline with a pay-per-minute number — 1-900-MMM-HMMM — and they’re off to the races.
It’s actually sort of surprising how much humor can be wrung out of phone sex, given a solid script and the talents of first-time director Jamie Travis. They do bring in some great cameos form Kevin Smith and Miller’s husband, Seth Rogen, each of whom adds his own spin on scenes that may have been as improvised as real phone sex is.
But a lot of the comedy comes from Lauren gradually coming out of her shell and taking a more active role, which of course requires a boot camp under drill sergeant Katie. And Katie has her own arc with a regular caller (Mark Webber) whose filmmaking career may echo Travis’ own a little bit.
At heart, this is an indie romantic comedy between Lauren and Katie. It’s simple and unassuming, but well-crafted in its adaptation of a common form to a slightly unusual pair of leads. What puts it over the top is a pair of charming and funny performances from two unquestionably talented comedic actresses, working off of a great script that’s not afraid to find humor on its own terms.
And when it all comes together, a film like For a Good Time, Call… makes you genuinely happy to watch it. The word “heartwarming” may not make many appearances around movies featuring a bedazzled Rabbit vibrator and portmanteaus like “phanal”, but somehow it fits.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.