For a Good Time, Call… (2012) Review

Though it may appear to be a Bridesmaids knockoff, For a Good Time, Call… is actually something different, and hearteningly so. It’s great to see any movie written by women getting more of a chance, and if that’s the legacy of the Kristen Wiig comedy of last year, then it’s a worthy one. Though For a Good Time, Call… does recall some scenes from Bridesmaids, it also stakes out its own territory as well.

Lauren (Lauren Miller) has always stayed on the safe, serious side of life. She lives in a nice New York apartment with her long-term boyfriend Charlie (James Wolk) and stays in close contact with her parents, who’ve already plotted out most of her life ahead of her. Then Charlie suddenly announces he’s going to be leaving for Italy and that the two of them are, well, boring. Suddenly, Lauren is without a place to live, and soon, a job. Her gay friend Jesse (Justin Long) does happen to know a place, with another friend of his, the flamboyant Katie (Ari Graynor). The two share a loathing for each other, based on an incident back in college, but they have no choice. Lauren needs a place and Katie’s apartment is no longer rent-controlled. Katie pays the bills with a number of part-time jobs, the most lucrative of which becomes apparent on Lauren’s first night in. Katie is a phone-sex operator, getting $1 a minute for her time on the line. Lauren, being more business minded, convinces her to strike out on her own, to keep more of the profits, in exchange for a piece and less rent to pay as she waits out a job at her dream publishing firm. After an attempt to add a second operator goes awry, Lauren volunteers herself, both as an attempt to cut herself loose and as a way to get closer to her new friend.

Ari Graynor already had a nice turn earlier this year in Celeste and Jesse Forever, but she’s dynamite in For a Good Time, Call…. Graynor’s performance manages to skirt a difficult line, as she’s brassy without being overbearing, fun without being crazy. The performance plays well off of that of Miller, who co-wrote the script. Miller is so restrained at the start of the film that you’re not sure she can believably make the necessary transformation, but the combination of the smart script and the infectiousness of Katie’s personality manage to wear that down. Long also far exceeds the traditional stereotype of the sassy gay friend. He’s believable as a friend of both women and makes himself pretty appealing in his own right. He so embodies the stereotype that he actually manages to move beyond it. The script is also smart enough to balance the necessary raunchiness with sweetness and a real insight into the closeness of female friendship without getting trashy. Even as the movie feints toward a certain direction that lesser movies might go, it’s avoided, and the audience’s affection for the movie increases. There’s also a couple of nice cameos as phone line callers that actually get pretty interesting, beyond the obvious joke.

The story is, in some ways, a little familiar, and can get formulaic in spots. The conflict between the two roommates does seem to resolve itself a little too quickly. There could have been more time spent on the two getting to know each other, or, at the very least, trying to live around one another before they become close. And when it becomes necessary for the two to come into conflict again, it’s just a little too convenient and a little too crazy to believe totally. It would have also been nice to show a little bit more of Lauren’s work life or much else of her life as it was before she met Katie, just to get a little more contrast.

But For a Good Time, Call… ends up as just that, a good time. With other Bridesmaids-type films coming out this year and likely in the next few, it’s nice to see that a little movie like this can stand on its own artistically and produce something fun.