For A Good Time, Call...Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/30/12 21:37:57
Once upon a time--well, 1996 to be exact--a brash young filmmaker of certain acclaim named Spike Lee offered the world a film by the name of "Girl 6" that told the story of a nice New York girl who, in the face of financial difficulties, took to working as a phone sex operator and discovered that she had a talent for getting people on the line and then. . .well, you know. Outside of the soundtrack contributions by Prince, the end result was a disaster and while Lee may have gone on to make worse films ("She Hate Me" and "Miracle at St. Anna" immediately come to mind), I don't think he has since made one since that was as just flat-out baffling--it wasn't funny, it wasn't thoughtful and it had no insight into the lives of those who are employed as phone sex operators (as Robert Altman did in just a handful of scenes in "Short Cuts") or those who employ them for whatever reasons. Now comes "For A Good Time, Call. . .," a would-be ribald comedy about two nice New York girls who yada, yada, yada--if there was a fourth "yada," it might have gone into NC-17 territory--and it is a film so devoid of a point or purpose that the only possible way to explain it is as a wildly misguided homage to "Girl 6." The sad thing is that this may be a remarkably idiotic thesis and yet, it is still funnier than anything to be found in the film itself.Our heroines this time are Lauren (Lauren Miller, who also co-wrote the screenplay), a Type-A personality who has just seen her life derail when her jerk boyfriend suddenly announces he is leaving for Italy for a few months and that she has to move out of their apartment, and Katie (Ari Graynor), a wannabe actress who is in danger of losing the rent-controlled apartment that she inherited from her grandmother, a structure so grand that Donald Trump himself would weep in regards to the footage. Bitter enemies since an incident in college involving urination gone wrong, they are brought together by the Gay Best Pal (Justin Long) that they share and decide to split the rent. One day, the prim and proper Lauren is shocked, shocked to discover that Katie is working as a phone sex operator but when Lauren's dream job falls through, she not only convinces Katie that they should go into the phone sex business themselves with Katie working the phones and Lauren on the business end.
Despite the fact that no one uses phone sex anymore, they are an instant success, so you know that there is trouble ahead. What will happen when Lauren gets another shot at that dream job that will destroy the partnership with Katie if she accepts? What will happen when her parents show up for a surprise visit and are confronted with a coffee table festooned with dildos (a phrase I must admit that I never thought I would write)? What will happen when Katie winds up talking many times to a seemingly nice guy and he asks to meet her in person? What will happen when the male members of the audience finally realize that neither Katie nor Lauren will be showing more skin than one might find in the inevitable "Maxim" pictorial?
Watching "For A Good Time, Call. . ." is a lot like reading the joke page from an issue of "Playboy" from 1979--the jokes are smutty and full of sex talk that is neither sexy or amusing and there is a dated quality to the material as a whole that is wildly distracting to boot. Once upon a time, the idea of seeing merry-faced women saying and doing the kind of unspeakable things that would have once inspired the arrival of the paddy wagon might have been deemed by some to be the cutting edge of humor but, as a wise man from Minnesota once mumbled, "things have changed." This can still be done today, as Lena Dunham proved time and again this past spring with her brilliant TV series "Girls" but in that particular case, she had the advantage of working from scripts that found new twists on familiar material and with directors and actors who played that material as realistically as possible (sometimes uncomfortably so) instead of simply pitching everything on the level of a typical sitcom.
Here, the script just follows every hackneyed plot device to its inevitable conclusion and throws in plot twists that beggar belief just to keep the flimsy narrative going. (To cite one example--while I guess I can believe that the girls would plow there money into a TV commercial hawking their business, I cannot believe that they would actually appear in the damn thing for all to see.) Every single plot development is profoundly boring and the funniest thing about the entire enterprise is its belief that we are actually supposed to care about them. Similarly, the direction and acting are all resoundingly one-note--at times, it feels like a smutty version of "Love, American Style," a sensation that is furthered by cameo appearances by the likes of Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith as clients. Rogen presence can be explained by the fact that he is married to Miller. As for Kevin Smith, there is no rational explanation for his appearance but if it momentarily distracts him from his anti-critic jihad, I guess that I have to grudgingly support it.Bearing the least accurate title for a would-be indie sex comedy since "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy," "For A Good Time, Call. . ." has all the erotic appeal of a Mitt Romney stump speech and even fewer laughs. The two leads are pretty and appealing enough to suggest that they might flourish with the help of better material than they are working with here. This is a film that knows all the words when it comes to sex (and may even add a few to the lexicon) but not the music and as a result, it just feels like we are watching either the world's most tedious episode of "2 Broke Girls" or two actresses reading at random from a book of the world's dullest dirty jokes. (I know--six of one.) The best thing that I can say about this film is that as movies involving sexually-charged phone calls opening this weekend go, it is slightly funnier than "Compliance" but not by much.
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