Ari Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller are BFF phone-sex operators in this slight but consistently amusing comedy
Is phone sex still a thing? In this age of XTube and Chatroulette, are there still lonely men willing to pay $2.99 a minute to hear dirty talk from a breathy stranger?
It’s a testament to the entertainment value of “For a Good Time, Call…” that I stopped obsessing about whether its plot about telephonic titillation made any sense — parsing the realism of a silly farce seemed moot when the performances were so good and the big laughs so consistent. Just like the erotic fantasies that the film’s leads peddle, you don’t have to buy into the central conceit to enjoy yourself.
Uptight Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller, who co-wrote with Katie Anne Naylon) and free-spirited Katie (Ari Graynor) have loathed each other since that long-ago night in college involving Katie’s drunken and accidental despoiling of Lauren’s pristine car. Years later, they’re both having man trouble and career woes in Manhattan, and their mutual gay best pal Jesse (Justin Long) realizes the only way that these two can afford to stay off the streets is for the recently-dumped Lauren to move into Katie’s sprawling apartment.
While Lauren tries for the publishing job of her dreams (Nia Vardalos has an amusing cameo as the gatekeeper standing in her way), Katie works several jobs, including a part-time gig as a phone-sex operator. As the two initially unwilling roomies become pals, Lauren applies her business acumen to Katie’s answering service, becoming an entrepreneur of smutty chat.
Once you get past the naughty trappings of “For a Good Time, Call…” however, it’s clear that this is really a story about female friendship between two women whose inner lives vary wildly from the public face they present to the world. It’s sort of inevitable that all R-rated comedies about sexually outspoken women get compared to “Bridesmaids” — this year’s Sundance featured not only “Good Time” but also the upcoming “Bachelorette” and “That’s What She Said,” and feature writers acted like they had all sprung out of the side of Kristen Wiig’s head — but this movie has its own delicate pace and funky vibe that makes it feel unique.
Miller and Graynor have great chemistry; as nemeses or besties, they ping off each other in a most delightful way. (Graynor’s scenes with Mark Webber, playing a phone client of Katie’s who becomes much more than that, are quite lovely as well.) If you insist on comparing “Good Time” to “Bridesmaids,” the two films so share an interest in exploring the dynamics of platonic female relationships and the effects of a crappy economy on the career aspirations of unmarried young women.
Not that “For a Good Time, Call …” aspires to making any grand generational statements. Ultimately, this is a movie about women (and several men, many of whom are played by famous faces in cameo appearances) indulging in sex talk. As written by Miller and Naylon, however, it’s chatter that’s funny enough to keep this fairly flimsy craft aloft for the duration.
This isn’t a phone conversation that will change your life, but odds are good you’ll be too busy giggling into the receiver to notice.
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