For a Good Time, Call... Reviews
You could think of this as "2 broke girls start a sex talk line" - it is that type of humour. Mostly a girl buddy movie with innuendo and a few interesting cameos.
I had not seen either of these girls in a movie before. Ari is like a jaded Kate Hudson, Lauren, a young Liv Tyler. Both are likeable and funny onscreen.
Decent comedy movie! For a Good Time, Call . . . is not the sexiest movie you'll see this year, even though it is about phone sex with some very racy language. It isn't about gay friendship either, although some of the situations might suggest that notion. No, it's about the business of friendship, the need to accept and nurture differences until real love emerges, not phony stuff. The film is not without its formulas and clichés, such as enemies becoming friends, the gay best friend, and the clueless rich parents. The last third of the film is filled with formulaic resolution, especially the breakup that will never stick. But that lack of imagination serves to highlight the imaginative novelty of new women who will say "I love you" to each other loud, openly, and without guilt. The film fails to give any insight into the art and success of phone sex or its enduring allure. That Katie is falling for a regular customer, Sean, does more to open the question about the downside of the biz, namely the potential perverts, than it does to expand the romantic possibilities of the comedy itself. Perhaps that's another comedy that the Bridesmaids and Hangover filmmakers, including Judd Apatow, would like to try, given that women have now permanently entered into hitherto male only romantic comedy territory.
Lauren and Katie, college frenemies with a mutual good friend, move in together at age 28 in order to afford an amazing Gramercy Park apartment. The unlikely pair start a phone sex line and become best friends while learning about this hilarious world of vibrators, fake orgasms and nighttime callers. When the hot line is hung up and reality comes calling, the most meaningful relationship of their lives is put to the test.
Lauren (Miller) has just been dumped by her self-involved boyfriend and fired from her job. She's looking for a new place to live when a mutual friend sets her up with a huge New York City apartment. The catch: her roommate is Katie (Ari Graynor), an acquaintance from college she has despised ever since a very horrifying party foul of seismic proportions. Katie's going to lose her posh home unless she gets a roommate, so the women reach a mutual understanding. Then one day, listening to Katie's hyperactive sexual noises, Lauren discovers how her roommate really pays the bills. She's been running a phone sex line and getting guys off for $3.99 a minute. Lauren decides to get involved in the business end, and before long the ladies have become a professional outlet and roll in their riches. Invigorated, Lauren starts experimenting herself, letting her freak flag fly, and before long she's also getting in on the calls.
Graynor is no stranger to stealing a movie, as she did perfectly in the sweetly unassuming 2008 teen romance, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. This girl has had the markings of a star for years and finally she's found the vehicle to showcase her comedic vivaciousness. To say Graynor makes this movie is an understatement to her talents. Graynor is this movie's pulse, its lifeblood, its font of energy, its wickedness, its exuberance, its very soul. This woman is amazing. She can take a simple line and with an effortless dose of comedic verve, it can become a gut-buster. I could watch twelve movies in a row with Graynor playing at this level of exciting excellence. The part is pretty familiar, the dirty girl who has problem with a filter, but Graynor makes the most of every opportunity. I loved her adorable theatricality, like a foxy, younger, brassy Bette Midler (God, did I ever think I'd string those words together?). I loved her enthusiastic hip shake, wearing large body stockings, while singing, "I'm ready to beat date rape!" Naturally, Katie gets all the best lines but her interplay with Lauren also works well. When the movie focuses on Lauren, and by extension the unremarkable performance by Miller, you start to feel things slag. Lauren is passive becoming active, but really even by the end she can still be cited as boring. Katie is active, hungry, brash, charming, and wonderfully portrayed by Graynor, and when she dominates, you'll ask for more.
Except for the lively theatrics from Graynor, the movie can often feel hung up on generic sitcom plot devices and character generalities. The premise itself is perfectly fine, but the movie seems to exist in some randy fantasy world. We still have a main character in the world of publishing that will obviously be offered the Big Job at an inopportune personal time (as movies have shown, every human being on the planet either works in publishing, advertising, or theater). And then there's the Bad Boyfriend, who breaks up with our heroine in the opening moments of the movie because they are "boring" together. Any guesses whether he shows up late as well, begging her back? I'd probably be more forgiving of these contrived plot turns if the movie did more to present Lauren and Katie as real characters. As written, they are pigeonholed into opposites (prude/wild woman) and rarely do we learn more about them. Lauren loosens up, Katie gains some self-respect, and they girls becomes BFFs. That development I found rather unconvincing, probably because there was little development. All of a sudden Lauren has an interest in joining the business, and one montage later, the girls have buried the hatchet. It feels like everything changed overnight. The attempts to ladle in some forced sweetness feels, in some regards, more crass than the sex jokes. I'll credit the movie for keeping me amused while watching, but upon further reflection, the girls and their relationship feels rather slapdash and rote.
The comedy itself gets too easily complacent with all those naughty words bandied about. Oh sure there's plenty of effective jokes about sexually frank conversations, and the inherently awkward nature of phone sex mechanics, but For A Good Time, Call seems too easily satisfied. I wish that Miller and co-writer Katie Anne Naylor had pushed their comedic setups further, had taken a few more left turns rather than settling for the familiar sex gag. Here's an example: Lauren's prissy parents make an unexpected visit and the girls have to hide their business particulars. That's a fine starting point, but where else does it go? The comic tension is too easily resolved instead of escalated. Then, surprise, the parents make a SECOND unexpected visit. This time the sex decorations are prominently displayed. We're waiting for some good comedic tension, some squirming, but again, it's over before the good stuff can even get going (am I right, ladies?). The Justin Long (Going the Distance) flamboyantly gay friend is never as funny as the movie thinks he is. There's a scene where Lauren is interrupted while masturbating, but we only realize after the fact when the joke is already over. Why introduce such a scenario if you were just going to settle for a weak "smelly finger" joke? Perhaps I would find the material funnier if I was a woman, relating more to the female dynamic on screen, but do you see how condescending that line of thinking gets? I unabashedly adored 2011's Bridesmaids (my #3 film of that year). I don't think anyone needs to grade a comedy on a curve for any reason, especially if they think they're trying to be polite.
I'm not going to make more or less of its sexual politics than what is presented. I think there is genuine merit when women take ownership of their sexuality. Why should women feel judged for wanting equality when bedroom activities and impulses are concerned? Whatever helps people build a healthy self-image should be championed, as long as it's between consenting adults. Watching Katie and Lauren personally grow based upon their unique entrepreneurship is welcomed. However, I can't help but shake my feelings that there is something lurking, some deeper sub current that is not worth celebrating because the movie seems to play into male fantasy. Even though I adored Graynor, I think it would have served the film better if the more sexually-liberated character, the pro when it comes to working the phones, was actually a less attractive woman, perhaps a mousy gal you'd never expect such lurid behavior from. I think that would offer more comedic potential as well. I think this would also puncture some of the airbrushed fantasy of the film's cheescake world of a phone sex line.
I have my complaints but I was laughing fairly regularly and enjoyed the experience, so if you're just looking for a good time at the movies you can consider For A Good Time, Call. Watching Graynor sink her teeth into her role and go full gusto is a rowdy pleasure, and it's easy to see that this woman is a star. The smutty jokes are fun and offer plenty of ribald laughs, but I always felt like the movie was too complacent, too settled, and curiously clumsy when it came to comic payoffs. The film is pretty flatly directed by Jamie Travis. The characters are pretty thin, and the plot feels ripped from a flimsy TV sitcom, but I laughed aplenty and found the movie difficult to dislike. It's not the most nuanced sex comedy, or the most ribald, but it delivers enough big jokes and Graynor is too sensational to miss.
Nate's Grade: B
Having said that, there's so much that's right about this film, that it's a shame to see it undone by incredibly slack direction and editing. A story about two mismatched roommates who "MEET GROSS" and then bicker until they figure out they can make a killing starting their own Phone Sex business has the seeds of a good comedy. Its underlying story is that of women coming together and realizing that it's really cool to love each other instead of falling victim to the cat-fighting cliche. All good.
Well almost. I pretty much object to these films feeling like they need to APATOW IT UP with a moment of pure disgust. Here it comes in the form of a Big Gulp cup filled with pee and a bumpy road. Ick. Trust me, nobody is gonna want to stand around the watercooler the next day and say, "Wow man. Did you see how that urine just flew in her face? Fist bump me, dude. That was rad!" I also object to the Gay Best Friend character. REALLY? Couldn't he have just been a straight guy and make, I don't know, the Crazy Christian character into a lesbian? Freshen things up here, folks! WILL AND GRACE ended its run in 2006.
But let's face it. The leads are pretty cute together, although co-writer/actress Lauren Anne Miller (real life wife to cameo-appearing Seth Rogen) could stand to turn up the charm a notch or two. Their final phone call, I bet, reads really well on paper, but in reality, it's pretty stupid. Regardless, they have their moments. It's really the deadening direction and all-thumbs editing that keeps this film from being the intended frothy/sexy fun.
And don't get me started on the COMPLETE LIFT from my own EATING OUT: ALL YOU CAN EAT. I'm talking about the Nail Salon scene, complete with subtitles and the humor of a white girl unexpectedly blurting out an Asian language. Ari Graynor is an appealing actor, but honey, I know Rebekah Kochan. Rebekah Kochan is a friend of mine, And you, sir, are no Rebekah Kochan! So get off my dick!!
The film feels more like a TV sitcom than a movie. I was surprised by the short running time of the film. It could have been 20 minutes longer. They had a good idea for a film, but didn't execute it correctly. It needed a rewrite. They should have opened the film up, when Katie first meets Lauren.
It was great seeing Ari Graynor in a leading role. I have seen her in a bunch of supporting roles in other movies. She reminds me of Kate Hudson or a younger Bette Midler. Justin Long is great in his supporting role. He almost steals the movie. I did like Kevin Smith's and Seth Rogen's appearances in the movie. Both of those scenes were hilarious.
Overall, I say, check the film out for Graynor and Miller. I would love to see them get leading roles in better films.
The guest appearances are hilarious.
Most of the time the scenes move at a brisk pace, but at times, Lauren's character drags the mood down. There were a few jokes that tried too hard, but I did appreciate the Jewish quips and double entendras.
It has a lot of things I like in a movie like this: It's funny, has witty and entertaining dialogue with the actors who can deliver their lines very well and there really are no villains. The small twists work well and keep the movie flowing well, even though their not surprising. It's not crass, which I thought it could easily have been.
For A Good Time, Call... is all this despite a huge problem. The lead actresses, Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller, have absolutely no chemistry. None. They're both good and, more importantly in a movie like this: entertaining, actresses, but they don't do well together. It makes the ending a little awkward, but they were able to work around that with their acting. And if Ari Graynor isn't seen as a wonderful lead actress by now, she never will. The appearances of funnymen like Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen helped make For A Good Time, Call... that much better.
Lauren Miller was one of writers, along with newcomer Katie Anne Naylon, and I like what they did. I'd expect them to progress in their next films, and I see them doing more together, if not. Also new to feature films, director Jamie Travis also showed the ability to put a decent film together.
For A Good Time, Call... is worth watching. It'll be on DVD/BRD soon. It's definitely worth renting.
Worth a rental.