For a Good Time, Call ...
Starring: Lauren Anne Miller, Ari Graynor, Justin Long, James Wolk
Rated: R, for strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use
Runtime: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Bottom line: Flawed but funny femme comedy
“For a Good Time, Call ...” is a modern-day sex farce made for millennial and Generation X women.
Even though the story is built around two girls starting a phone sex chat business, the movie is really about girlfriends taking care of each other when just about everyone else is letting them down.
Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller) is a repressed good girl stuck in a cold relationship with her self-centered, live-in boyfriend Charlie (James Wolk). When Charlie breaks up with Lauren (immediately after some utterly uninspired sex) and announces he is moving to Italy, Lauren is left with a broken heart and nowhere to live.
Meanwhile, free-spirited loner Katie (Ari Graynor) is about to lose the dream apartment she inherited from her grandmother. She has paid ridiculously low rent for a virtual palace in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan, but the rent control deal is ending and Katie needs a roommate.
Lauren and Katie share a grudge from a brief encounter back in college, but they also share a gay friend named Jesse (Justin Long), who knows about each of their financial woes. He cajoles them into living together, which they do only out of necessity.
Soon, though, Lauren loses her job. When she discovers that Katie supplements her income doing phone sex and that Katie’s employer takes much too large of a cut of her earnings, they start their own company. Lauren is only the business manager at first, but she soon starts taking calls.
The phone sex sequences are among the movie’s funniest scenes and feature a few great cameos. Otherwise, the story is about Lauren and Katie becoming best friends.
“For a Good Time” is a good first feature for both director Jamie Travis and screenwriter/actress Miller, and I mean that with both the positive and negative connotations.
It offers several hilarious scenes and an occasionally fresh voice but lacks cohesion and the degree of competency we expect from a wide release.
Travis has made several award-winning shorts, but this is his first feature. Similarly, Miller has written a few shorts, but she and her co-writer, Katie Anne Naylon, tackle a feature for the first time here.
The lack of experience shows frequently, most prominently in character development.
Miller and Travis handle Lauren and Katie’s growing friendship well enough. The movie captures this progression in small but touching moments. For instance, Lauren’s hair matted to a bar of soap annoys Katie at first, but later it brings a tender smile to her face. Nice.
The movie effectively plays up the latency in same-sex friendships, similarly to the bromances we’ve seen in “I Love You, Man” and elsewhere. In many ways, “For a Good Time” is the female equivalent to that dude-targeted comedy.
But when it comes to Katie’s and Lauren’s individual development, the movie is clumsy, almost borderline incompetent. Backstory revelations and emotional outbursts come out of nowhere and clearly only happen to complicate the story.
And for as many scenes that provide big laughs, just as many fall flat or seem to serve no purpose.
Still, I expect 20-something audiences of both genders to enjoy the movie because of the things it gets right. “For a Good Time” should especially appeal to young women who want a girls-night-out movie that speaks frankly about sex from a different perspective.
This movie might be for the current young adult generation what “Sex and the City” was when it first began to air. Only, “For a Good Time” doesn’t talk down to its audience via elitist, entitled fashionistas.
Graynor has shined in supporting roles, like “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and “Youth In Revolt.” Here she gets to take center stage, improvise, and use any kind of vulgarity she wants, but the editor should have cut Graynor’s more grating moments.
This indie-style comedy will please its target audience, but that’s about it.
Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.