For a Good Time, Call… is a raunchy, abrasive, brash and, at times, outright silly look at the absurd lengths two twenty-something frenemies will go to in order to pay their rent.
Directed by Jaime Thomas and made with the perfect Apatow-ian balance of laughs and heart, the film makes for a successful, if somewhat flawed, late-summer rom-buddy comedy and one of the funniest movies of the year.
The film follows Lauren, played by co-writer Lauren Miller, a stuffy brunette whose entire life has been mapped out for her. She’s stuck in a boring relationship with her boyfriend Charlie who, following a hilariously awkward opening sex scene, tells her as such and then dumps her as he informs her that he is going to Italy on business without her. Meanwhile, the free-spirited Katie, played by co-producer Ari Graynor, is struggling to pay rent toward her historical landmark of an inherited—thanks, Grandma!—apartment in Gramercy park that she lives in to spite her parents, albeit while working multiple jobs.
Suddenly, we have a perfect storm of an Odd Couple-esque set-up, as Lauren needs a place to live and Katie needs someone to help her make ends meet. Though the two don’t know each other…well, per se, their mutual gay best friend Jesse, played fantastically by Justin Long, suggests that Lauren move in, but tells her to keep an opened mind about the apartment. The advice isn’t necessarily about the apartment itself but who lives there, as Lauren and Katie share a bit of embarrassing history from their college years that they’d likely want to keep in the past.
Begrudgingly, Lauren moves in, and after a convenient series of events—while painting the apartment, Lauren notices her chipped fingernails and finds a flier for a nail salon on the coffee table—she finds that Katie isn’t who she initially seems to be. Despite overstating her Jewish heritage to Lauren on move-in day, Katie manages the nail salon—holding an obviously doctored license to do so—and pretends to be Japanese, ordering a full Brazilian wax for Lauren when she comes in for a manicure, like her coworkers.
That’s not the only lie Katie tells, either. After thinking she’s heard Katie having sex one night, Lauren walks in on her only to find that she is on the phone, an apparent phone sex operator.
“Basically, they tell me what they like and I say I’ll lick it,” Katie tells her.
Apparently, Katie’s promiscuous venture doesn’t pay nearly as well as it should, by Lauren’s standards, and she shrewdly suggests they start their own line—ludicrously dubbed 1-900-mmm-hmmm—to help pay the apartment’s rent.
From there, the laughs are dirty and plentiful, as we are greeted by some of Katie’s clientele—or, as I’d like to call them, cameo masturbators (you’ll have to see the film yourself to find out who they are)—but the main story, as it were, drops off. The business runs smoothly, and with Katie’s dirty talk talents and Lauren’s sharp business acumen, the subject of maintaining their residence isn’t addressed again in the movie. The biggest external conflict the girls face is making sure Lauren’s parents, who twice show up at the apartment unannounced, don’t find out about the business.
Instead, For a Good Time, Call… morphs into something different entirely—the story of two girls battling the demons that got them into that apartment in the first place on the path toward self-actualization and an earnest best-friends-forever-ship. Lauren must let go of the rigid scheduling that’s dominated her life as well as her prideful ambition that’s come as a result, from coveting a job with a prestigious publishing house to clinging to the slim possibility that she and Charlie could get back together. Katie, meanwhile, must learn to be honest with herself and allow others to love her for who she is rather than for all the nasty things she tells them over the phone.
Neither issue necessarily stands in the way of their success in the phone sex business, but arises as a result of it—after all, Nia Vardalos’ headhunter character tells Lauren, a phone sex line doesn’t come with employee benefits—and kick-starts their individual crazy trains toward adulthood. Like most buddy comedies, their issues run parallel to each other, and need resolution only after a misunderstanding leads to a petty fight and mutual, if however brief, resentment.
From here on out, it’s Lauren and Katie and not much else, as each additional character in For a Good Time, Call sporadically and only briefly enters the fray, serving strictly to lure the two out of their semi-arrested development and facilitate their budding friendship. The duo doesn’t return Jesse’s frequent phone calls after he acts as their real estate agent—which is a shame, because everything Long says and does in his small role is outright comedic gold—and their second operator, Krissy (played by Sugar Lyn Beard), hired because she is as dirty as she is creative in her phone sex-capades, goes rogue on the operation in a hilariously terrifying way, to show that the business can succeed only with Lauren and Katie running things.
Excluding Jesse and the occasional caller, the rest of the film lacks the depth that would put it on par with another semi-autobiographical buddy comedy, Superbad. But what For a Good Time, Call… lacks in its creation of a self-sustaining universe in which the girls are to live—as opposed to a universe that operates as necessitated by Lauren and Katie—it makes up for in its surreal premise and relentless humor that should resonate with audiences stuck somewhere between being a Mean Girl and a Bridesmaid.