Sex and comedy go together so very well. The awkwardness of the “that happened to me once” moment. The hilarious disgust of the “oh no I could never do that” scene. More hilarious metaphors and expressions have been created to describe sexual acts and functions than perhaps any other aspect of human society. So while American comedies have managed to make several great jokes about sex over the years, it is weird that there is still no great comedy about the business side of sex.
Where Zack and Miri Make a Porno failed, call girl comedy For a Good Time, Call… fails only slightly less. Determined to break down barriers about female insecurities and sexual repression, it instead becomes patronising and confused (like its protagonists), and only sometimes funny.
Relative newcomer Lauren Miller plays Lauren; dowdy, inhibited, unwittingly dull. When her boyfriend dumps her, she is forced to find a roommate, and must move in with old college acquaintance Katie (Ari Graynor); bubbly, confident, seemingly slutty. The two hate each other, because a flashback tells us so, but soon come to terms with one another after Lauren learns Katie runs a phone sex line. When Lauren loses her job, she becomes the management end of Katie’s sex line venture. Lauren is determined to remain the woman behind the curtain, but long before the film’s climax she is helping their customers with climaxes of their own.
Hoping to be a BFF girl power comedy about sexual liberation and friendship, For a Good Time, Call… gets lost in its own ideas. Is it for or against a life as a sex line operator? It seems torn on the matter. And what about the underlying lesbian nature of the women’s relationship? It flirts with addressing it, but bails out at the last moment.
None of this would matter of course if the film were funny enough. Sure, there are a handful of great turns of sexual phrase, but often the film relies on women saying “cock” or “balls” for its laughs. Katie’s decision to date one of her regular customers results in a deluge of rape jokes. The visual gags fare better; the girls decorate their apartment for a party with dildos and banners made from the “used” panties they post to their most enthusiastic customers. The script, by Miller and co-writer Katie Anne Naylon, reeks of rewrites, with scenes and jokes ending abruptly and certain plot threads left dangling.
That said, Miller and Graynor make a good team, and have enough chemistry to keep the film buoyant. They each make their character sufficiently vulnerable to paint over the more forced cracks in the screenplay. Support is offered by Justin Long as the girls’ shared gay friend – let completely off the leash to adlib as he pleases, Long gets almost all the film’s best lines, but most of its weakest also. It’s a real shame his best joke is lifted straight from an episode of Modern Family. Cameos offered up by the men behind Zack and Miri briefly inject energy and laughs into the film, but given the topic at hand it seems unnecessarily gimmicky.
The feature-length directorial debut of Canadian filmmaker Jamie Travis, For a Good Time is a competently handled affair, but it has none of the ambition implied by its concept. All it needed to be great was to carry a strong message or be very funny. It didn’t manage either.
(originally published at http://www.filmireland.net)