For a Good Time Call is alternately pushy and sweet, obnoxious and endearing, too broad yet at-times inspired, a Wild Sex Comedy featuring two perfectly nice young women who meet cute, despise each other and then become best-est friends. Oh, and they create a very lucrative phone sex business even though one is a prude and the other a virgin. Go figure. It’s probably the most explicit dialogue ever heard in a mainstream picture, yet the movie, a sweet fairy tale at its core, doesn’t for a minute take its ribald topic seriously.
Directed by first-timer Jamie Travis as a fast and furious gag machine—there’s about 3 zingers per minute for the entire running time—we have two likable actresses play acting at being very dirty, both seemingly in on some big joke, with star Ari Graynor all but winking at the camera as a blowsy, curvy blonde nail technician with the will to make it big, who finds the business partner she needs in pragmatic Lauren Anne Miller, an upwardly mobile career woman stalled after being dumped by her perfectly boring yuppie boyfriend (James Wolk). Graynor, intentionally overplaying to the rooftops (and sometimes pushing the jokes too hard), is the main reason to see this film. When she’s funny, she’s really funny.
At the start of the film, each of the women is in dire need of a roommate. Paired by their flamboyant, mutual best friend Jesse (Justin Long in a flamboyantly gay stereotype), Lauren (Miller) and Katie (Graynor) are mortal enemies after an unfortunate college incident ten years prior. Flash forward to present day Manhattan and Katie, about to lose her rent-controlled pad overlooking Gramercy Park, reluctantly agrees to shack up with newly single Lauren.
It doesn’t take long for prissy Lauren to discover that confident Katie is a part-time phone sex operator. After a little coaxing (and dwindling rent money), Lauren becomes the business manager and the pair incorporates their venture, 1-900-MMM-HMMM. Soon they are making money hand over fist. For a minute it suggests that the women might actually be soul mates or lovers, but cops out on that provocative suggestion.
Eventually Lauren gets on the phone as well, leading to a handful of broad scenes with the energy of real farce, complicated by unannounced visits from Lauren’s conservative parents (Mimi Rogers, Don McManus) and a regular customer Katie develops an attachment to (Mark Webber)—presented here as a sweet courtship amidst the escalating, ribald antics.
Two very funny cameos feature Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen as horny clients trying to get off while the girls fumble their lines, and Nia Vardalos turns up in two strained scenes as the editor of a high-powered publication wooing Lauren back to a “real” job.
Shot in just sixteen days, the film has verve and energy and lightness of spirit; it also sustains its pace and narrative without flagging. Too clever by half, throwing everything (and then some) up on the wall with a few things sticking and not always as funny as it imagines itself, For a Good Time Call is a decidedly mixed bag, but I’d be lying if I said that its combination of cuddly raunch and girl power endearment didn’t (almost) get me.
2 1/2 stars.