Wrong number on a speed dial
By Jess Righthand
Friday, August 31, 2012
Was it doomed from the start?
It’s hard to say, really. Could a genuinely good, or genuinely funny, movie ever be made about two girls who operate a phone-sex line? It’s not something to rule out entirely. Movies with similarly raunchy premises (2008’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” for example) have managed to be both funny and filthy at the same time. But even if a good phone-sex movie does exist, “For a Good Time, Call . . .
” is woefully, definitively not it.
To be fair, the movie is not entirely about phone sex. It’s about the shallowest female friendship to hit screens since, well, pretty much ever. Twenty-somethings Lauren and Katie become roomies in Katie’s too-good-to-be-true apartment overlooking Gramercy Park. Lauren (played by Seth Rogan’s wife, Lauren Miller, who also wrote the script with Katie Anne Naylon) is a high-strung, pearl-wearing priss whose boyfriend, as the movie opens, dumps her for being “too boring.” Then she loses her job. Katie (Ari Graynor), on the other hand, is a velour-jumpsuit-wearing, pole-dancing bombshell who happens to moonlight as a phone-sex operator.
When mutual friend Jesse (a flamboyant Justin Long) blindly sets up the women to live together, they are horrified, as they have long harbored a mutual hatred as the result of an unfortunate urine spill incident in college. But when Lauren hears Katie having way too much fun from her bedroom one night, she decides she doesn’t want to be boring anymore. She wants a piece of the action.
Then, ever so magically, the girls become the best of friends! What some critics have already started calling their “bramance” (really?) goes from zero to 60 faster than a Lamborghini. All of a sudden, the movie explodes in a dreadfully maligned orgy of hot pink telephones, frilly undergarments, gratuitous bosom-bumping, leopard-print dresses and -- “OH MY GOD!” -- matching tote bags.
It’s a small miracle that the action stops short of a naked pillow fight. This “bramance” -- ostensibly aimed at turning the “bromance” genre championed by Miller’s hubby on its head -- is really just some kind of stereotypical male fantasy incarnate.
Yes, we want Lauren to loosen up and we want Katie to find true love. (Predictably, she hits it off with one of her customers.) And there are a few bright moments along the way. But with the exception of Katie’s endearing if improbable love interest, Sean (Mark Webber), and a gratifying Rogan cameo, there’s no one in the mix likable enough to pull for, or even laugh at. This may be a partial fault of the script’s clunky cobbling of obvious exposition and stand-alone one-liners. Director Jamie Travis also could have done far more to poke self-conscious fun at the leads rather than allow them to live on unmolested in their rosy bubble of telephone orgasms.
The idea of “bromance” is funny and surprising precisely because it challenges traditional conceptions of manliness. What’s so revolutionary, then, about a “bramance” in which two girls bond over men and each other’s wardrobes? I’m all for sexual liberation and applaud the recent uptick in female-driven comedies. But when “For a Good Time, Call . . .” is over and you’re free to leave the theater, the only one who will be liberated is you.
Contains explicit sexual language and themes, profanity and drug use.