Saturday, September 8, 2012


Women headlining comedies might seem like a recent trend, but there is a long list of women who made comedies work on their own terms. So why is is we haven't seen the next iterations of Cher, Bernadette Peters and Goldie Hawn? Sure, Kristen Wiig gathered a nomination for Best Actress for her ensemble movie Bridesmaids, but unless she can produce something like that again, it's more of an aberration than a legitimate step forward. And while some actresses have made some headway in their movie careers, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham have had much more success on the small screen (and in some cases, the literary market) than they have in theaters. The only comedic actress right now who regularly gets big screen work is Anna Faris, and she hardly picks the best projects to join. Female-fronted comedy is currently at its highest popularity in decades, with only cinema the last remaining unconquered hill. There's always a need for more funny women in Hollywood, and For a Good Time Call... adds actresses Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller to the mix with satisfying results.

He's like a next-generation Jack Tripper
When Lauren's (Miller) boyfriend dumps her and leaves her without a place to live, she has no affordable place to live by herself in New York City. Katie (Graynor) has a wonderful apartment her grandmother left her but cannot afford to stay without a roommate. Obviously this wouldn't normally be a problem, except the two have been enemies since an unfortunate incident in college involving urine and a Big Gulp container. Convinced to give living together a shot by their shared best friend Jesse (Justin Long), the two are at first hostile towards one another until Lauren discovers Katie's side gig as a phone sex operator. Let go from her cushy publishing job and unable to secure new employment, she turns to Katie and the pair create their own sex line, with Katie taking the calls and Lauren managing the business. But when Lauren decides that she's tired of her safe, "boring" life, Katie agrees to let her on the line as their second operator. However, the pair's growing friendship eventually hits a major obstacle that threatens to reset everything to the way it was, and end their companionship forever.

You know what's harder than running a sex line? Getting it to work with Discover.
Like many small-budget films, this is one that needs its major characters and performers at their best when it comes to telling their story. Thankfully, the dual leads of Graynor and Miller are up to the task. Graynor is in a word fantastic, commanding the screen as well as the divas of yesteryear and with the bubbly, fun-loving personality that hearkens back to an Almost Famous-era Kate Hudson. As a young woman much more complex than she at first seems, Graynor simply owns the screen. Why the 29 year-old actress hasn't gotten a bigger shot at stardom is a mystery, but hopefully this film will give her an edge in breaking into leading roles. Miller is no slouch, though you might at first think her role as the "straight woman" against Graynor's juvenile actions is not much of a stretch. In fact, her transformation from uptight businesswoman to well-rounded character is such a subtle, shocking change that it sneaks up on you just how good she actually is. In fact, the leads in Good Time are so strong that it's not a weakness when the secondary characters don't get as much screen time as they would usually. Most shoved aside is Long, whose portrayal as the duo's gay best friend probably benefits from not taking center stage too often. And Scott Pilgrim's Mark Webber is surprisingly effective in the relatively limited role of Katie's love interest. Hilarious cameos by Kevin Smith and Miller's husband Seth Rogen help keep the pace going forward, but it's most certainly Graynor and Miller who steer this ship.

One thing this movie does not lack is phones.
But beyond the excellent acting, There's the wonderful storytelling thanks to a screenplay penned by Miller and Katie Anne Naylon. Miller and Naylon were roommates in college, and the story was at least partially based on their real-life experiences, most notably Naylon's brief experience as a phone sex operator. The movie does a great job exploring the motivations of each character, and really establishes the vast differences between Lauren's wealthier upbringing to Katie's less supportive family while also proving that the two have a lot in common despite their differences. For a Good Time, Call... is much like a low-rent variant of Sex and the City with its focus on female empowerment, friendship and love, but without the needlessly superficial shoe hoarding. The script allows its characters to shine, and the only reason you could not like the movie would be if you don't like the topic of sex at all. Even then, the hotline is never over-used, allowing the friendship between Lauren and Katie to blossom on the screen.

Do it!
With some great humor (though not as much as you might have thought), wonderful characters and a story that never falters, For a Good Time, Call... is one of the year's better indie films. Though folks won't be flocking to it in the same droves as say, Magic Mike, Jamie Travis' directorial debut is extremely superior to much of the indie fare I've seen in 2012. Graynor especially is an excellent reason to watch, though anyone with leanings towards New York City, SatC, and/or female-fronted comedies in general should heartily investigate. After a summer of bust releases, I'm quite happy to say that this is one film this year worth watching, though hopefully it won't be the last.

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