Film & DVD
For a Good Time, Call
Short, sweet and smutty, phone-sex homance charms with droll precision
Published: September 5, 2012
For a Good Time, Call …
Some people just can't get over a little urine in the face.
It's been 10 years since Lauren (Lauren Miller) gave a severely shit-faced Katie (Ari Graynor) a ride home, and Katie returned the favor by peeing in the nearest empty cup and then promptly spilling it all over her driver.
Cut to present day, and the only thing these two have in common is a grudge and a gay bestie, Jesse (Justin Long), who sees fit to set them up when the perfectly plain Lauren finds herself jobless and the more impulsive Katie finds herself desperate for a roommate. Neither one is particularly happy about the arrangement, but when Lauren realizes that Katie is working a phone-sex hotline – one of her umpteen jobs – they realize perhaps a little shared entrepreneurship is just what they need to make things work.
A potty-mouthed piece of cotton candy that hardly burdens itself with current economic concerns, For a Good Time, Call ... is a brisk piece of sitcom work that plays out like less of a chick flick and more of a bromance between two charming gals. As much mileage as the screenplay (co-written by Miller and real-life friend Katie Anne Naylon, herself a former phone-sex operator) milks out of conventional hurdles and filthy wordplay, it makes a point of introducing a few less readily apparent character developments and convincingly emphasizes friendship and love as much as phony lust.
The voice behind some wonderfully deadpan shorts (The Saddest Boy in the World, The Armoire), director Jamie Travis effortlessly translates his candy-colored palette to Katie's apartment through her wardrobe (soon to be matched in sheer pop by a newly loosened Lauren) and the vaguely retro nature of the production design. At a brisk 86 minutes, his first feature is cut with some of the same droll precision of his earlier work.
However, the tone is featherweight by comparison, bolstered in part by Graynor's livewire presence. Finally getting to split the spotlight after years of supporting roles in films ranging from Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist to last month's Celeste & Jesse Forever, she starts off as amusingly pouty and coy and works her way toward genuine insecurity. Out of the odd couple, Miller is burdened with the fundamentally less interesting task of letting her hair down, both literally and figuratively, though Lauren's agreement to join in on the business instead of merely managing it does lead to one of the funnier and more unlikely training montages in recent memory.
Long wriggles out from underneath his stale stereotype long enough to score some zingers, Lauren's parents show up to expectedly prudish results, a handful of famous faces make cameo appearances, the world's least skeevy phone-sex caller (Mark Webber) begins to date Katie, and the traditional second-act conflict between her and Lauren arrives right on schedule.
Fortunately, matters are resolved rather swiftly, culminating in a climax (what?) that handily juggles real sex and real love in the same scene. All told, For a Good Time, Call ... is practically a stage play: two girls, two phones, small stakes and solid laughs. But as it stands onscreen, there's nothing terribly wrong with a film this smutty, short and sweet.
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