A smutty feature-length sitcom with heart, "For a Good Time, Call..." is like a well-cast, middle-of-the-road television series; it's pleasant enough while passing the time, but also so insignificant that it's only too easy to forget. Director Jamie Travis, making his major motion picture debut following a string of short films, is thoroughly unimaginative in his bland point-and-shoot method. A little better is the screenplay by first-time scribes Lauren Anne Miller and Katie Anne Naylon, and even stronger than that are the sunny performances from leads Ari Graynor (2011's "The Sitter
") and co-writer Miller herself (2011's "50/50
"). In an episodic half-hour format, these two could be saltier reincarnations of "Laverne & Shirley." Settling for an 86-minute, one-and-done relationship comedy, the material is more noticeably scattershot and simply too slight by a half.
Ten years ago, studious good-girl Lauren Powell (Lauren Anne Miller) and party-mama Katie Steele (Ari Graynor) became instant college enemies following a urine-based altercation in Lauren's car. Now in their late-twenties, they are brought back together by way of mutual gay pal Jesse (Justin Long) when the two of them are suddenly in need of a roommate. Still getting over her break-up with Charlie (James Wolk), Lauren has few other options and takes Katie up on her half-hearted offer to move in to the nice-sized apartment she inherited from her late grandma overlooking New York City's Gramercy Park. Catty remarks and standoffish attitudes quickly turn to a surprisingly warm friendship, especially once Lauren discovers Katie moonlights as a sex phone operator. Suddenly finding herself without a job, Lauren takes over as manager, turning Katie's side job into a lucrative independent business complete with their own special telephone number (1-900-mmm-hmmm). The more quiet, less bold Lauren begins by working behind the scenes, then can't help her curiosity as she decides to take to the phones herself. Lauren's got bigger dreams, however, and it's only a matter of time before she must decide to leave this lurid path to fast cash behindeven if it means sacrificing the close bond she's developed with Katie.
"For a Good Time, Call..." was reportedly shot in sixteen days on a relatively shoestring budget, some of the bigger names making cameos as obvious favors to the filmmakers. They don't really workSeth Rogen (2011's "The Green Hornet
"), as an airplane pilot looking to get his rocks off in between flights, and Kevin Smith (2007's "Catch and Release
"), as an insatiably horny cabbie, play things way too broadlyand feel precisely like what they are: stunt casting. With the majority of the movie taking place in Lauren's and Katie's apartment, it is easy to see how much of it could be filmed very quickly. It also, as it happens, might have just enough spunk and raunchiness to please a certain mainstream audience who aren't looking for more than a quickie with a few laughs.
With that said, what doesn't come off as a rush job are the standout turns from Lauren Ann Miller and Ari Graynor. Playing Lauren, a relative innocent who's nonetheless been around the block, Miller transforms before the viewer's eyes, beginning the picture as a demure, tightly-wound woman without much backbone and ending it as someone who is altogether wiser, wearier, and more apt to stick up for herself. As Katie, the brassier of the duo who is altogether more talk than action, Graynor is a delight, on the border of rhapsodic as she takes her character down avenues both unanticipated and utterly disarming. Together, Miller and Graynor have such good chemistry that the narrative seems to flirt with the possibility of friendship turning to something more intimate. Fortunately, the script realizes that two people can love each other without becoming romantically linked.
Supporting turns include a game but undernourished Justin Long (2010's "Going the Distance
") as stock confidante Jesse; an amiable Mark Webber (2010's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
") as regular nice-guy caller, Sean, whom Katie takes a liking to; comic spitfire Sugar Lyn Beard as babydoll-voiced Krissy, an aspiring phone sex operator Lauren and Katie briefly hire; and Mimi Rogers (2012's "Hope Springs
") and Don McManus (2009's "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
") as Lauren's parents Adele and Scott, whose disappointment when they learn of their daughter's current employment is left disappointingly forgotten about and unfinished by story's end.
"For a Good Time, Call..." dares to offend with its colorful, sexually explicit three-, four-, five-, and six-letter words, but beneath the scented panties and assorted dildos is a familiar, albeit sincerely felt, slice-of-life about twenty-somethings struggling to find their way and discovering friendship where they least expect it. That's all sweet and everything, and Lauren Anne Miller and Ari Graynor have what it takes to carve out an authentic on-screen compatibility, but there is just not enough substance surrounding them to keep the premise from feeling stretched thin even at under an hour and a half. Like an aforementioned TV show that diverts and then dissipates despite the best efforts of its actors, Miller and Graynor are a step above the pedestrian content they have to work with.