[Review] - For A Good Time, Call...

Courtesy of Focus Films
For A Good Time, Call... is perfect fodder for enforcing gender stereotypes. Written by women, based loosely on a true story, and starring primarily women, this could be viewed as the female equivalent to raunchy sex comedies like American Pie. Except, as any standup comedian will tell you, men and women view sex differently. And so, while the movie features quite a lot of dirty talk (as one might expect from a film about phone sex), it features no nudity, and focuses more on the emotional and intellectual side of sex then other films of the genre would. In fact, when it comes to actaul sex, the film is very... asexual.

And while this is certainly a refreshing change of pace, it is not the whole film, and does not distract from the flaws.

Hit the jump for the review, which maintains a phone line of its own: 1-900-SPOILERS (its mostly husky voiced women ruining films for you).

The film is entirely centred around two Oscar and Felix types, played by Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller, to the point where every other actor is essentially just putting in a cameo. The exception to this is Justin Long, who appears haphazardly, and is essentially useless once he gets the two leads together. Which means the entire film has to be supported by these two characters. And for the most part, they do an admirable job. The script keeps things simple, and doesn't stray too far off the main plot. In fact, except for a minor story line involving one of the recurring callers, the movie has no additional depth.

Which means, when the story falters, or when the comedy doesn't hold up, the viewer is left with nothing. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen enough to unsettle you. It removes you from the experience. The comedy gets the worst of it, coming in fits and starts. The first act is mostly about conflict, the second the awkwardness of setting up their phone sex business, and the third doesn't really have much direction. I suppose it's about conflict too, but it is far less satisfying then the first two thirds of the film, and falls back on standard romantic cliches in order to bring us to a conclusion. The final scene salvages itself by featuring some inspired wordplay, and was one of the few genuinely smart jokes in the film.

Before I go further, I'm going to dispel the idea that because I am men-folk, the film wasn't written to appeal to me. I reject this in two ways: first, I hate the standard sex comedy fair, and was looking forward to a film that approached the subject more intelligently. And second, I saw the film in a theatre of mostly women, and they laughed less frequently then I. In fact, I haven't heard a comedy audience so silent in some time. The comedy wasn't constant enough to support the audience. It never built up a rhythm, carrying the laughter from one scene to another, or to inundate us with rapid fire comedy so if one joke didn't satisfy, then the next three might. It lulled us, which isn't what you want from an audience expected to laugh.

What works is the acting. The girls, while coming off as intolerable more then once during the film, and both sharing the husky, perpetually dry mouthed-sounding voice, are well portrayed by Miller and Graynor. They don't show the broadest range, but I suspect that had more to do with inflexibility in the script then the actor's abilities. But like I said, the script doesn't have a place, or a reason, for many of the minor roles, leading to actors like Mimi Rogers or Mark Webber having very little to do. The rotten apple of the bunch was Nia Vardalos, whose two scenes couldn't have ended fast enough.
Certain scenes had the telltale marks of improvisation about them, most notably and effectively the caller cameos, which provided the heartiest laughs from the audience. But because of the purposefully awkward structure of the tightly scripted aspects the of the script, the improv comes off as out of place. As a freshman feature, it holds together better then most, and I certainly look forward to Miller and Katie Ann Naylon's next effort, hoping that it shows signs of growth, and perhaps more confidence and boldness in structure, if not subject matter.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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