For A Good Time, Call...

For A Good Time, Call...


Reviewed by: David Graham

With boys behaving badly comedy The Hangover becoming such a runaway smash, it was refreshing to see Bridesmaids come along and prove that whatever guys can do, girls can do at least as well, if not better. The smut-com boom has seen some real stinkers slide down the pan, but occasionally a film comes along that gets the balance of heart and horn just right. Jamie Travis' debut feature positively fizzes with endearing characters, zingy dialogue and a hilarious central turn from the inimitable Ari Graynor, though some will find its glamorisation of the phone-sex industry - not to mention some of the dirtier humour - hopelessly naive and in poor taste.

Recently dumped by her long-term boyfriend because their relationship had grown too boring, and finding her career plans in tatters, Manhattanite Lauren is broke, homeless and heartbroken when her dog-toting gay pal arranges a flat-share that sounds too good to be true. This turns out to be the case, as the beautiful, spacious apartment is also occupied by bubble-headed blonde Katie, with whom Annie had an unfortunate encounter years ago. Katie is due to be imminently evicted if she doesn't find someone to help with the rent, so the girls swallow their pride and put initial resentment to the side in order to keep their heads above water. It soon turns out, however, that one of them has a secretive sideline which the other might be able to make lucrative for them both if they can combine their idiosyncratic talents.

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Travis unashamedly invites Bridesmaids comparisons right off the bat by opening with an awkward sex scene, followed swiftly by a cliched split-up bombshell, but the tone of Miller and Katie Ann Naylor's script and the quality of acting is a notch above the the norm for this fare, while the humour is acerbically cutting without being cruel. As soon as Graynor turns up as the ditzy but headstrong Katie, the laughs really start flowing; her scene-stealing turn in the otherwise vomit-inducing Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist temporarily rescued it from its hipster pretensions, and here she takes her crowd-pleasing schtick to a whole new level, while effortlessly displaying her acting chops during well-played intimate moments. Miller also does a good job transcending the straight gal foil, even if her transition to ballsy, independent woman feels somewhat pat.

Managing to avoid sitcom trappings through spritely direction and a snappy pace, Travis' brief runtime and focus on a mere two apposite characters are refreshing in these days of Judd Apatow's unnecessarily stuffed turkeys. Where those films overflow with inconsequential bit-players, patience-testing subplots and indulgent cameos, Travis wisely keeps things relatively simple, judiciously employing the likes of Justin Long's hyper-camp mutual friend and Nia Big Fat Greek Wedding Vardalos' straight-shooting boss-lady in important support roles that skirt the right side of the cringe reflex. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith, Ken Marino and Miller's real-life beau Seth Rogen pop up gamely as masturbating clients with various rib-tickling fetishes.

A brilliantly frothy first half keeps the viewer grinning from ear to ear, but the films fizzles out a little when our pair of budding entrepeneurs go their separate ways for predictably melodramatic reasons. The plot takes a somewhat disconcerting turn when the girls start mixing business with pleasure, their characters going off on potentially sleazy and even disturbing arcs that they at least acknowledge as being ill-advised. A few overly obvious and hypocritical attempts to highlight our unhealthy relationship with the telephone also fall flat, partially due to the sex-line spoofing being so unrealistically candy-coated.

An unlikely third-act romance eventually bogs Graynor down in a shameless 40 Year Old Virgin rip-off, while the filth factor also feels forced in the final stretch. Even when things start to sag in the middle though, good-natured and insightful moments get things back on track, such as when the lesbian undertones to the girls' endeavor spill over into outright affection and admiration for one another in the middle of what's meant to be a phone-sex three-way, and only the most cynically-minded will begrudge the climactic reconciliation.

Despite being occasionally misjudged, Travis' film maintains its sparkle and warmth thanks to its outstanding leads and sparky script, Graynor and Miller developing a very real chemistry that expertly exploits and even blurs their yin and yang dynamic. This will hopefully provide a well-regarded launch-pad for these rising stars, both of them being significantly more likable than Kristen Wiig and her cronies were in their notably more mean-spirited vehicle. As in the similarly sweet but smutty Zack And Miri Make A Porno, the subject matter may limit For A Good Time's commercial appeal, even though it's full of beans and brimming with heart. Feminists may blanch and dudes may balk at the prospect of another chick flick, but this is pound-for-pound one of the funniest films of the year.

Reviewed on: 08 Nov 2012
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Odd couple flatmates get into the phone sex business in a cheerfully smutty comedy.
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Director: Jamie Travis

Writer: Lauren Miller, Katie Anne Naylon

Starring: Seth Rogen, Justin Long, Ari Graynor, Mimi Rogers, Nia Vardalos, Mark Webber, Lauren Miller, James Wolk, Sugar Lyn Beard, Vanessa Britting, Don McManus, Justin Wheelon, Veronika Dash, Michael Medico, Lawrence Mandley

Year: 2012

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Sundance 2012

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