Only months after Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike depicted the current economic downturn through the eyes of males in the sex entertainment industry – dealing with the topic in a timely and decidedly lighthearted fashion – audiences can now see the far less serious, somewhat more problematic, but almost equally fun female equivalent. Although far raunchier with its pottymouth leanings, For a Good Time, Call… ends off the proper summer movie season quite nicely with a poppy confection of witty banter and sly observations on the phone sex game and a sweet story of best friends trying to make it in the big and not so sexy city.
After being enemies for ten years following a gross mishap after a frat party, recently heartbroken, and hopelessly boring aspiring book editor named Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller, who also co-wrote) is forced into a marriage of convenience of sorts to the loud and flamboyant Katie (Ari Graynor). In order to keep the posh NYC apartment once owned by her deceased grandmother, Katie needs a roommate and will take anything she can get on top of her multitude of jobs. One of her jobs has her moonlighting as a freelance phone sex operator, and while Lauren doesn’t approve at first, she eventually decides that there’s definite money that can be made from privatizing their efforts, and together they form a strong partnership and friendship that will be put to the test in probably every way one could possibly think of.
It’s all pretty predictable stuff, but that’s part of what makes Torontonian short filmmaker and music video director Jamie Travis’ debut feature so believable. The smaller moments of parents getting in the way, botched job interviews, and failed romances can all be easily resolved, and they’re never handled like they are the end of the world. Despite some complaints, these are people who can very easily dust themselves off and go on with their lives. Amid all the dirty talk and double entendres, a really sweet relationship develops between Lauren and Katie that the audience wants to see succeed even though it’s made clear from the start that their relationship will always be tenuous.
Travis has some definite fun with the material even if he seems a bit unsure at times working with a larger canvas. As has been the case with his previous works, the production design is a cut above other similar themed films and it’s always pleasant to look at, but like many comedies of this ilk, it isn’t all that well shot and sometimes the editing around obviously improvised riffs comes off as spotty. Still, it’s a very assured big league debut for someone who has been waiting for a chance to truly shine on the world stage.
Miller might have written the screenplay, but this movie belongs to Graynor, who bounces off the walls with near manic energy and a killer sense of comedic timing. With a character that could have been a very standard blonde Jewish princess, she makes Katie into one of the more sympathetic boors in recent memory, especially with the introduction of an intriguing character trait at the halfway point that probably doesn’t get exploited as much as it should. (Then again, that might speak to the film’s occasional choppiness.) Miller, on the other hand, almost blends into the background and she seems content to play the straight woman to Graynor, Justin Long (as the struggling and flamboyant comedian friend that brings them together), and several big name cameos that pop up to steal sequences from the stars. On their own, they’re both great, but their chemistry together looks effortless both when warring with each other and while on the same side.
It might be nothing more than a pleasant diversion, but For a Good Time, Call… sends the summer out on a high note with a great hit-to-miss ratio for its gags, some truly winning performances, and a sense of economic believability between the story’s more clichéd elements. Considering the type of film that usually gets dumped at the end of August – traditionally a dumping ground for studio films that no one wants anything to do with – we should almost feel spoiled to have something this giddily entertaining. And don’t worry, guys. This isn’t the all girls club you might fear it would be. In another parallel to Magic Mike, there’s enough universal appeal here to please anyone looking to have a good time.