Sex complicates relationships. Sex talk complicates friendships. In Jamie Travis‘ For A Good Time, Call…, a pair of mismatched gal pals attempt to navigate the murky waters of sex line proprietorship while also exploring what it means to be a loyal and true friend. That may sound cheesy, but that’s okay, because For A Good Time, Call… is cheesy, and in the best possible way. It’s also dirty, smutty, raunchy, silly, charming, funny, heartfelt, honest, sexy, and did we mention dirty, smutty, and raunchy? It’s a movie about a sex line. It has to be. But it doesn’t have to be this charming.
We open with good girl Lauren Powell (Lauren Miller, who also wrote the film’s script with Katie Anne Naylon), bored, bra-ed, and in bed with her boyfriend, mid-coitus. This is not a relationship built on passion, and when Lauren’s boyfriend, Charlie (James Wolk) finally lays it on her and confesses to Lauren that he’s bored – not just bored! “Crazy, out of my mind bored” – it’s already a relief. Even when Charlie tells Lauren he’s heading off to Italy for a summer gig, we’re breaking up, see you never. Oh, and get out of our apartment.
Left homeless in a city notorious for its horrific (and overpriced) housing, Lauren has precious few options – but her good pal Jesse (Justin Long, outrageously funny in his supporting role) has a plan. Too bad it involves making Lauren move in with his other good pal, Katie (Ari Graynor), who has a beautiful apartment that she can’t afford on her own. Sounds great, right? Well, not so much – see, Lauren and Katie have known each other since college, and they’ve hated each other since within approximately, oh, twenty minutes of meeting each other. But they don’t have a choice (and, really, the film doesn’t have an inciting conflict without said forced choice), and the pair move into together. Let the indignities begin!
Lauren is an uptight go-getter, a sort of cousin to the Marnie character in Lena Dunham’s Girls, and not having a control over her love life or her home life does not work for her. Katie is a free spirit (after all, we first meet her when she’s pole-dancing in her own home) who works a ton of jobs to make ends meet and likes to pretend she’s writing a book (well, she could write a book!). And, yes, one of Katie’s jobs is as a phone sex operator. Which she does from the home. The girls are already scandalized by standard roommate quibbles – Katie being viciously protective of her stuff, Lauren leaving hair on the soap, bathroom time no longer existing as a private time – but that’s nothing compared to straight-laced Lauren having to hear her nutty roommate talking all sexy through the walls (who has an even bigger secret than the one about her occupation, this one involving, of all things, her heart).
And then Lauren loses her job. The plot of For A Good Time, Call… is no secret (they start a sex line!), but Miller and Naylon’s script makes sure to get there organically. Lauren doesn’t just need money, she needs something to do with all of her wasted business skills. And Katie doesn’t need a partner, she needs someone to guide her and support her. Bound by their needs, Katie and Lauren start up their very own line, with Katie purring away to their various customers (including a few fun cameos) while Lauren heads up the business side of things. It’s a set-up that works (and works well) because Katie and Lauren are so firmly established by Miller and Naylon’s script and Graynor and Miller’s performances. These girls feel real, fleshed out, and fresh – and Graynor and Miller are unafraid of getting really raunchy, steamy, and dirty when the job calls for it. It’s a sex line – there’s sex talk, and it makes For A Good Time, Call… feel believable and relatable, even if we’re tittering and cringing all at the same time.
The film follows a traditional (to the point of occasionally reading as trite) structure, but it’s within the expected confines of said structure that For A Good Time, Call… finds much of its humor and originality. That’s mostly due to the fact that, while we might see every beat and conflict coming from a mile away, those beats and conflicts are usually trapped inside standard issue romantic comedies that center on overly (and often unbelievably) cute heterosexual couples, not raunchy sex comedies that center on mature female friendships. Naylon and Miller are deeply cognizant of what they’re doing with the girls’ friendship, and a number of interactions between Katie and Lauren (particularly in the film’s third act) reflect their smart sensibilities and clever plan to make a blossoming friendship feel just as important as a new romance.
While audiences might be sick to death of romantic films that find conflict in someone saying “I love you” to their partner before they’re ready to say it back or that devolve into screaming matches over the meaning of “their home” and “their partnership,” those same bits are sweetly recalibrated in For A Good Time, Call… and the results toe the line between being laugh-out-loud funny and genuinely effecting. Of course, it helps immeasurably that Miller and Graynor have excellent chemistry, the sort that works both to pump up the comedy of the film and to inject some unexpectedly deep emotion into the film’s twist on a classic “love story.”
For A Good Time, Call… is a rarity amongst recent releases, a film that really is both hilarious and heartfelt, and not simply because such an alliterative compliment looks good on a poster, but because it’s true. It’s a sex comedy about love. Who knew?
The Upside: Solid chemistry between Miller and Graynor, outstanding performances (particularly from Graynor, comedy MVP that she is), a charming story about female friendships that rings true, a solid twist on the ol’ rom-com trope.
The Downside: Perhaps prohibitively raunchy, slow to start, predictable plotting.
On the Side: The film was shot in just 16 days.