Phone sex may seem like a quaint notion of the past in terms of being a lucrative business, what with all that multi-faceted internet porn, but Jamie Travis’ For A Good Time, Call… nearly convinces you that living well in New York City merely takes a sultry voice and a land line.
Lauren Powell (co-screenwriter Lauren Miller) had a distinct plan in life: Maintain a well-paying job and get married to Charlie (James Wolk), her boring in bed, boring in life boyfriend. The boring in bed aspect immediately exhibits itself in the first scene of the film in which Charlie has time to comment on the thread count of the sheets as he awkwardly fumbles toward an orgasm. Afterward, as they brush their teeth together in the bathroom, Charlie informs Lauren that he’s going to Italy on business for the rest of the summer and that he would like to use that time to “evaluate” their relationship. Asshole that he is, he also slips in that she needs to find a new place to live.
Turning to her best friend, Jesse (Justin Long, who proves to be the highlight of the movie and possesses a distinct knack for exuding gayness), for advice, Lauren asks him what she should do for a temporary place to live. Jesse promises that he has the solution to her conundrum, mysteriously giving her the address to an apartment in Gramercy Park. When Lauren shows up, Katie Steel (Ari Graynor) opens the door, much to both of their respective disenchantment. This is the apropos moment when both flash back to the night they first met, the night that Jesse asked Lauren to drive Katie home from a frat party even though Katie was a complete stranger to her.
Katie’s bubbly personality and slut persona immediately overpower Lauren, who answers her questions stoically (e.g. when Katie asks, “What are you doing tonight?” to which Lauren grimly replies, ”Probably just watching Felicity.”) as “Stay” by Lisa Loeb plays on the radio. The contrast between the two of them is deliberately overexaggerated to mirror the zany, stylized nature of the movie. Once you can embrace For A Good Time, Call…‘s over the top tone, you’ll realize that it’s actually a rather brilliant reimagining of the screwball comedy genre.
Once the two are finished angrily remembering the night they met, Jesse pops out from behind Katie and invites Lauren in to look at the apartment. Lauren’s irritation with Katie is only tempered by the sweeping vista of the park, the immense hallways and the oversized bedroom. Even so, both Katie and Lauren remain hesitant to move in with one another until Jesse points out that neither of them have another option: Lauren will never find something as simultaneously affordable and luxurious and Katie will never find a more sane roommate option.
The contention between Katie and Lauren quickly subsides when Lauren learns of Katie’s primary “side job” as a phone sex operator. Considering Lauren has just been fired from her job and the position she wanted at a publishing house fell through, Katie is able to lure Lauren to the “dark side” by convincing her to manage the business side of what will now be called “1-800-MMMHMMM.” Still sustaining a heavy rotation of regulars, including Katie’s personal favorite, “10 o’ clock Sean” (an interesting continuation of Mark Webber’s nickname status, of which I am of course referring to “Designated Dave” in Drive Me Crazy), the two entrepreneuses decide to take on another employee.
At first, the latest addition to 1-800-MMMHMMM seems like a sexually perverse dream come true–until Lauren and Katie overhear her chastising their callers for being immoral sinners. After they realize she is some sort of undercover religious zealot, it becomes even clearer that they can only trust each other. Thus, Lauren agrees to fill the position of phone sex operator #2.
Teaching her the tricks of the trade, Katie grows about as close to Lauren as she can get without becoming a full-fledged lesbian. And this is the point where For A Good Time, Call… will either annoy or endear its viewers. If you can accept it as a female bromance with splashes of 1980s influence (thanks to James Laxton’s cinematography and Lucky Cardwell and Sean Preston’s art direction), you’ll find yourself as enthusiastic about this movie as a man who has just ejaculated to the encouraging voice of a phone sex operator.