Thursday, September 13, 2012
Review: "For a Good Time, Call..."
There's a difference between comedy and zany behavior. "For a Good Time, Call..." aims for the former but mostly contains the latter.
This Sundance Film Festival favorite is about two down-on-their luck Manhattan roommates who start a phone sex business to make ends meet. Now, phone sex is like prostitution lite -- a sex act is involved, one-sided in terms of pleasure received, money is exchanged, though the parties never meet in person.
Big in the '80s, it seems anachronistic in this day in which countless terabytes of free porn are available on the Web. I would think visually-inclined men would go that way instead of opting for an audio-only format. Not to mention, at $4.99 a minute, the Great Recession must have shrunk the customers base considerably.
But it's also why Katie and Lauren are able to clean up so well. Katie (Ari Graynor) is blonde, outspokenly slutty and under-motivated. Lauren (Lauren Miller) comes from privilege, is prim and a bit awkward. Katie works the phone sex thing as a side gig, making $1 a minute.
Lauren is predictably appalled when she finds out, but has the business sense to point out Katie could make a lot more if she stopped being a contractor and went into business for herself. They name their company "1-900-MMM-HMMM," which seems a recipe for misdialing the competition.
Over time, the two opposites learn to work together and even become close, the uptight one loosening up and the crazy cohort gaining some semblance of responsibility. I should point out that this is essentially the same plot as "Night Shift" with Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler, minus the morgue component.
In the finest Judd Apatow tradition, "Good Time" is a product of nepotism. Lauren Miller is married to comedian Seth Rogen, who appears in a cameo along with other famous funnymen and -women like Kevin Smith, Justin Long and Nia Vardalos.
Miller is also a co-screenwriter and co-producer with Katie Anne Naylon, her actual college roomie when they were at Florida State University. They supposedly based the story on their real-life experiences. (University of Florida alum, insert joke here.)
As we see in flashback, Lauren and Katie have A History. Back in college they barely knew each other, until there was an incident involving a brand-new car, a plastic cup and a full bladder. Ten years later, their mutual best friend -- catty gay caricature Jesse (Long) -- suggests they shack up together when they're both low on cash.
Katie inherited her grandmother's fabulous apartment overlooking Gramercy Park, but the rent control is going bye-bye. Meanwhile, Lauren's lawyer boyfriend (James Wolk) tells her he needs some space to evaluate, and wants her to move out of their apartment.
Sugar Lyn Beard has a short but memorable turn as a business recruit with an impossibly squeaky, girly voice -- and then, she takes it up (or down) a notch.
First-time feature film director Jamie Travis is a bit shaky with the pacing. Sometimes the jokes and loony bits fly at us so fast the audience can't hardly field them all. Other sections linger and mope.
The language coming out of the girls' mouths while they're working the phones is supposed to be shocking in its filthiness, but the wind-up overshadows the pitch.
Graynor has the bigger, flashier role as the hard-bitten girl with an embarrassing Big Secret, but I never bought her as authentic -- she's more personality than person. Lauren is more relatable, but it seems like the movie has all her moves are laid out for her five minutes in.
"For a Good Time, Call..." has a handful of genuinely funny bits. But compared to other films in the recent trend of R-rated female-centric comedies ("Bridesmaids"), it doesn't find the sweet spot.
2 stars out of four