Review: For a Good Time, Call…

'If it doesn't find an audience then future generations are bound to look back on us as stuck-up prudes.'

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani


Sometimes I just don’t feel fully qualified to review a movie. For instance, I know bupkis about sports, so maybe most of Necessary Roughness flew over my head, I don’t know. I’ve never called a phone sex line either, so I’m forced to admit that there could be some aficionados in the audience getting distracted by pesky little inaccuracies in For a Good Time, Call… Personally, I choose to believe that this is how it really works: the women you’re calling are actually gorgeous, charismatic best friends who play along with your kinky idiosyncrasies without judgment or hesitation, and anyway, they’re only doing this so they can maintain their implausibly swank apartment in the kind of New York City that only seems to exist on “Must See TV” and in Woody Allen’s limbic system.

I may be ignorant, but I’m damned happy about it thanks to For a Good Time, Call… It’s as hilarious as it is difficult to write about, since anything you put after that title gains unexpected dramatic weight. For a Good Time Call… a shrubbery! (Sting music.) The film itself is a trifle of a thing, with more clichés than a Reese Witherspoon joint and enough montages to rival the output of Sergei Eisenstein. But it’s clearly an intentionally unchallenging delivery system for a very funny, good-natured heterosexual womance (my word) and progressive, sex-positive modern moralizing. In other words, the pointlessness is actually kind of the point. For a Good Time, Call… is a ridiculously uncomplicated pill to swallow, and the medicine works great.

Lauren Miller, who co-scripted, stars as Lauren Powell, an ambitious but socially dull individual whose boyfriend leaves her because he wants more excitement in his life. Suddenly needing a new apartment, a gay stereotype played by Justin Long hooks her up with Katie Steele, played by Ari Graynor, who suddenly needs a new roommate after the death of her grandmother. Naturally, they hate each other. Graynor plays a free spirit and Miller plays a stuffed shirt, and so, obviously, this alluring bod couple wind up starting their own business based on Katie’s lucrative phone sex job. Lauren loosens up a bit, Katie reveals a surprising innocence and some truly tawdry dialogue rears its pretty head in conjunction with a handful of hilarious celebrity cameos from the likes of Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen (Miller’s real-life husband).

It’s a simple set-up: two mismatched characters are thrust together, they bond, they change, they’re torn apart after a misunderstanding and eventually they find each other again. Like the similarly exceptional bromance I Love You, Man from three years ago, the similarly comma-laden For a Good Time, Call… utilizes tired romantic comedy tropes to illustrate the pitfalls of heterosexual friendship. And it’s still a clever idea. The phone sex storyline dispenses throwaway jokes and emphasizes the film’s gentle themes of sexual openness. Personal kinks are so offhandedly accepted that even the prudish members of the audience are likely to take the progressive mindset in stride. Harmless genre tropes are the spoonful of sugar For a Good Time, Call… serves up so that its tawdry subject matter feels less daunting. It’s helped by a pair of delightful womantic leads, each lovable in their own way.

Films like For a Good Time, Call… can speak volumes about the world we live in. If this movie finds an audience, it signifies that we’re on our way towards a more relaxed sexual atmosphere as an entire culture. If it doesn't find an audience then future generations are bound to look back on us as stuck-up prudes. I heartily recommend this funny, foul-mouthed and kind-hearted comedy. If you don’t see it, your grandkids are going to think you’re a schmuck.