For a Good Time, Call is the brainchild of one of its stars, Lauren Miller, and her writing partner, Katie Anne Naylon. In a case of art imitating life, it’s the story of two girls who met in college (as they did), did not get along (they actually did) and then 10 years later wind up sharing an apartment through a combination of coincidence and extreme necessity (this did not actually happen). One ends up helping the other turn her job as a phone sex operator into her own business. Naylon actually worked in the phone sex field while in college.
“Lauren” (Miller) is the straight arrow, no-nonsense woman whose whole life has been planned since she was a young girl. Right school, right job, right boyfriend, right social commitments, all to make her very involved parents very proud.
Then her boyfriend picks the absolute worst moment to let her know that not only is he leaving to go to Italy, she needs to move out of his apartment because he wants to re-evaluate their relationship. To top that off, she gets let go from her job, a position she had hoped would lead to her succeeding her boss.
Now jobless and homeless, her good friend “Jesse” (Justin Long) helps find her a place. It’s with “Katie” (Ari Gaynor).
Katie lives in her grandmother’s old apartment, which just lost its rent control protection. It’s a great apartment, spacious, with a terrific view of Grammercy Park. But she can’t afford the rent. Jesse puts the two together and insists they get past a very difficult incident in their past (shown hilariously in flashback and you probably saw it in the film’s trailer), suck it up, and just get along. At least for the summer.
Lauren has an interview for her dream job at a publishing company, but the woman interviewing her (Nia Vardalos) has bad news. It was nepotism or cronyism or some ism, but the position she was there to interview for has been filled and there will be no openings for at least three months.
A discouraged Lauren overhears Katie engaging in phone sex and gets her to admit that this is how she’s paying the bills. She gets $1.00 per minute of the $4.99 per minute that the guys pay the service that employs her. Lauren suggests Katie let her set up a new phone number, take over her existing customers, and she’ll handle the billing for one-third of the money. The two agree and soon Katie’s regulars are being handled by Lauren.
Things get complicated when they try to hire an employee, which goes bad. So Lauren decides she wants to be the second girl and Katie has to train her how to handle the phone calls without sounding like the goodie-two-shoes she is. The story gets more complicated when Jesse finds out what they’re doing after Katie chooses to violate one of the cardinal rules of the phone sex industry (never meet your clients), and when Lauren’s parents visit at unexpected times. There will also come a moment when Lauren is asked to return to interview for that dream job again.
There are laughs to be found here, but not nearly as many as one would like from an out-and-out comedy. There’s a little romance, but not nearly enough to call For a Good Time, Call a rom-com. There are men made to look just a tad silly in their engaging in self-pleasuring with the assistance of a woman’s voice over a phone line, but you knew that going in. The relationship progression is so predictable almost anyone could guess what will happen in the end.
Miller and Gaynor aren’t bad in their roles, but there just isn’t a whole lot to the characters to require the nuance and range of emotions one looks for in strong acting performances.
For a Good Time, Call‘s only 86 minutes long, but by the time you’re finished, it seems like it went on a lot longer.