“For a Good Time, Call…” could be alternately titled “What People Will Do for an Apartment in New York.” And the answer is pretty much anything, whether that be running a phone sex business or living with someone you hate for spilling pee on you. Note that in the world of “For a Good Time, Call…” “anything” does not include looking for a place in (gasp!) Brooklyn. Anyway, Lauren Powell (Lauren Miller) has just been dumped by her boyfriend (James Wolk) for being boring, and since her sex talk revolved around their sheets’ thread count, we don’t really blame him. With no job and no money, she’s forced to move into the Gramercy Park apartment of Katie (Ari Graynor). Katie is in dire straits herself since her former roommate/grandmother died, reverting the gorgeous apartment’s rent-controlled status and raising the monthly bill. Despite the beautiful two bedroom, the women aren’t happy to be living together. Rewind back to college when hard-studying Lauren gave hard-partying Katie a ride home that ended with Katie peeing in a cup and spilling said urine-filled cup on Lauren. Their mutual friend Jesse (Justin Long) thinks that pairing up two of his favorite people is the best solution, but they’re still far closer to enemies than friends once Lauren moves in.
To make ends meet, Katie works for a sex line, while Lauren huffs around the apartment and tries to find a job. But when Lauren’s best hope for a position at the city’s most unrealistically posh book publisher falls through, she may be forced to reconsider her options in terms of both friendship and employment. She turns her business acumen and go-getter attitude to Katie’s sex line, but it doesn’t take long for her to want to join Katie on the hot pink phone and lose her inhibitions (and phone virginity) in the process.
“For a Good Time, Call…” plays a lot like a romantic comedy, but instead of focusing on a purely romantic relationship, it’s the growing friendship between Lauren and Katie from the pee-soaked meet cute to the (spoiler alert, we guess) final reunion between the now-best friends that is at the heart of the story. Co-written by star Miller and Katie Anne Naylon, the movie passes the Bechdel test in a way that would make type-A Lauren proud. Sure, there are romantic options for both Lauren and Katie, but the women exist for more than love and talking about men. They’re ambitious and smart–we just wish the film were as successful. It’s a comedy that isn’t always funny as it struggles to find the right tone between raunchy and sweet. It celebrates female friendship in a way few movies do, but good intentions don’t always make for a good film. This is the first feature from director Jamie Travis, and he doesn’t do anything to embarrass himself, but we’re curious to see what he has planned for the future.
There are moments that we loved, most involving current girl crush object Graynor. She’s played the friend or sister in a variety of films and shows (“Fringe,” “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” “What’s Your Number?” and most memorably “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist“), but she gets and deserves top billing here. She’s hilarious–even when the script isn’t–as well as being sexy and remarkably real. We couldn’t decide whether we wanted to be best friends with her character (provided she could spare a square of toilet paper) or take her out on a date, but either way, she’s someone we want to see more of. Please call us, Ari.
Miller is less likable as the mostly uptight Lauren, but that’s part of the point. From “For a Good Time, Call…,” it’s tough to determine whether her strengths lie more in acting or screenwriting, but she didn’t give herself a lot of room to stretch in the role. Meanwhile, co-star Long proves that his brief (awesome) cameo playing gay in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” wasn’t a fluke. He’s adorably over the top as Katie and Lauren’s mutual friend. Meanwhile, in smaller roles, recognizable stars (including Miller’s husband Seth Rogen) are hilarious in as Katie and Lauren’s clients, and Mark Webber goes full geek to play Sean, a frequent caller who wants to talk about more than sex with Katie.
By sex line standards, “For a Good Time, Call…” clearly succeeds –- it starts off slow, includes plenty of dirty talk, then gives us the happy ending we came for –- but our needs are a little bit greater when it comes to good films. It’s hard to identify with either Katie or Lauren for the first third of the story, and by the time we want to be part of their two-person clique and swapping dresses, the movie’s nearly over, complete with a third-act reveal that’s roughly as believable as a glam publishing house (seriously, Hollywood, do your research here). We love that more comedies are being made for and about women that don’t merely center on their relationships with men, but the next step is actually making these films enjoyable. [C+]