Dir: Jamie Travis. US. 2011. 86mins
Two mismatched female twentysomething New York roommates discover the one thing that can bring them together – starting a professional phone-sex line – in For A Good Time, Call…, an uneven comedy that has “guilty pleasure” written all over it. The feature debut from director Jamie Travis feels thin story-wise (despite being less than 90 minutes long) and puts too much stock in its own would-be naughtiness, so it’s a very good thing that leads Ari Graynor and co-writer Lauren Anne Miller have such ebullient chemistry, which helps forgive a lot.
Sneakily, the movie turns out to be a rather touching story of female friendship, with Miller and Graynor believably charting a course from sworn enemies to practically soul mates.
Launching at Sundance in the festival’s Premieres section, For A Good Time doesn’t have the benefit of major stars, although it does have Justin Long in a supporting role and a cameo from Seth Rogen. But from a commercial standpoint, it would seem obvious that distributors will eye the film as a way to capitalise on the success of Bridesmaids, which demonstrated that audiences were more than comfortable embracing a comedy starring raunchy female characters.
For A Good Time starts off as a seemingly predictable odd-couple story. The uptight and recently dumped Lauren (Miller) needs a place to live, and so her friend Jesse (a very campy Long) sets her up with Katie (Graynor), a sexed-up aspiring writer who needs a roommate to help pay the rent. Unfortunately, Lauren and Katie met briefly 10 years ago in college and instantly hated each other – and that feeling continues to this day. But when Lauren discovers that Katie pays the bills by working as a phone-sex operator, she proposes they go into business for themselves to cut out the middleman and reap the profits.
Entirely too pleased with its own sassy, glib tone, For A Good Time overestimates how outrageous its premise is. While Katie – and, eventually, Lauren – deliver decent amounts of R-rated dialogue during their phone-sex conversations, the filmmakers don’t dwell for a moment on the potentially disturbing, kinky or twisted situations that could arise. Rather, For A Good Time mostly draws laughs from the mild surprise that two hip New York gals would get involved in a profession that mainstream society finds distasteful. (It’s a film that assumes that the mere sight of a dildo in polite company is hilarious.)
But despite those reservations, the film ends up generating a tremendous amount of charm and good cheer once it gets over its own supposed shock value. Sneakily, the movie turns out to be a rather touching story of female friendship, with Miller and Graynor believably charting a course from sworn enemies to practically soul mates. Although Lauren and Katie are both straight, For A Good Time is at its most subversive when it suggests that no man could fulfil their emotional needs in the same way as they can for each other. It’s a provocative idea that would have been more fun to explore, but as it is, these two actresses invest such spirit into their polar-opposite roles that you enjoy the time spent with them nonetheless.
Production company: AdScott Pictures
International sales: Cinetic Media, www.cineticmedia.com
Producers: Lauren Anne Miller, Katie Anne Naylon, Josh Kesselman, Jenny Hinkey, Jennifer Weinbaum
Executive producers: Ari Graynor, Daniel M. Miller, Joe Nasser, Jack Nasser
Screenplay: Lauren Anne Miller & Katie Anne Naylon
Cinematography: James Laxton
Production designer: Sue Tebbutt
Editor: Evan Henke
Music: John Swihart
Main cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, James Wolk, Nia Vardalos, Mimi Rogers, Don McManus, Sugar Lyn Beard, Steven Shaw, Mark Webber, Justin Long