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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: For a Good Time, Call….

 

FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL… (Two Disc Combo Pack: Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy/UV (One and a Half Stars)

 U.S.: Jamie Travis, 2012 (Universal)

For a Good Time, Call…was no good time for me. It’s a romantic comedy about two Manhattan roommates who collaborate on a phone sex service, and discover the joys of talking dirty for fun and profit. I didn’t like it much (though it was a hit at Sundance). But there’s something impressive about the way this movie finds and wastes a pretty good cast — especially its co stars Lauren Anne Miller, as Lauren Powell, a doe-eyed brunette stunner and Ari Graynor as Katie Steele, a  blonde and brassy bombshell. These two, talented actresses  play two New York City twentysomethings  — and eye candy of a particularly scrumptious sort — who find love while operating that phone-sex company service in their rent controlled apartment above Gramercy Park. If that sounds like something crude and funny, you’re half right.

Lauren and Katie start off as reunited old enemies who fell out early in early college years over a bad Farrellyesque joke involving  a urine sample, and who are bought together now by their mutual friend Jesse the gay comic (Justin Long). Jesse, who seems to be constantly auditioning for a blue revival of “Finian’s Rainbow,” leaps to the rescue when Katie is about to be booted out of her rent controlled paradise, and after Lauren has been cruelly kicked out of her digs by her clean-cut and slimy yuppie boyfriend Charlie (James Volk), who complains that life (and sex) with her is boring and anyway he’s off to Italy. Jesse’s suggestion: a sort of How to Marry a Millionaire rent split arrangement, of the kind Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately these gals dislike each other so much, it’s a wonder Jesse was able to keep his status as a mutual friend with them. Before you can say “clichéd rom-com,” Lauren and Katie are living together, and Lauren has discovered Katie’s phone-sex routines, and since she’s temporarily between engagements, she decides to join Katie as business partner and then as a phone sex performer.

Miller and Graynor are congenial company and they both have great smiles, which they overuse here. They also wriggle a little too much, either with or without Katie‘s private stripper‘s pole. (The idea is to let them act sexy, but show how silly it is.) Few of the jokes are funny, and that especially includes the phone-sex conversations, which only made me smile, once, during one customer’s orgasm. This is the kind of movie that tries to milk laughs out of a scene where Lauren’s parents (Mimi Rogers and Don McManus) visit her and Katie, and two huge dildoes are perched on the coffee table —  a peculiar place to put them unless you have unusually big coffee cups. It’s also the kind of rom-com where the characters talk about almost nothing but sex or tehmselves for the entire film. Not politics, Not literature or drama. Not movies or music. Not the Internet or the meaning of life. Nothing but sex and relationships, This would be boring in real life. It becomes deadly in most modern rommie-commies, which seem to have been written for people who need but can’t afford phone sex.

For a Good Time, Call… generates some mild suspense by making us wonder, for a long time, who’s going to supply the romance, to match up with Lauren and Katie. It can’t be that jerk Charlie. But is it any of their faithful clients — including Mark Webber as Sean, Katie‘s surprisingly sensitive  best regular? Is it that loud cabbie played by Kevin Smith? Is it Jerry the frighteningly casual airline pilot, played by Seth Rogen (Millers real-life husband)? Is it phone-mad Harold, played by Ken Marino? Could it possibly be Jesse the gay comic and dog lover? Could it be a mystery man, or a rent control expert? Or could this movie be planning a switcheroo, bringing the phone-sexers together  for  a lesbian finale?

I’ll never tell. The movie was directed by Jamie Travis, who’s made some prize-winning shorts, and the script was written by Miller and her ex-roommate Katie Anne Naylor. But anyone expecting another girl-hit like Bridesmaids may be sorely disappointed. It’s just another high concept gone wrong: Two Manhattan roommates find happiness as phone sex ladies with lots of funny customers. It’s also the same kind of one note self-obsessed script that passes for comedy in many indie and Hollywood rommo-commos, not much  better, not much worse.

I don’t want to come across like a curmudgeon, or a collector of rare dildoes, but I’m tired of movies that are about the sex lives of shallow New Yorkers, or shallow would-be yuppies from any city or state, half-privileged people who have almost nothing to say that isn’t a bad joke. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and it might as well be Gramercy Park.

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Dear Irene Cho, I will miss your energy and passion; your optimism and joy; your kindness towards friends, colleagues, strangers, struggling filmmakers, or anyone who randomly crossed your path and needed a hand. My brothers and I have long considered you another sibling in our family. Our holiday photos – both western and eastern – have you among all the cousins, in-laws, and kids… in the snow, sun, opening presents, at large dinner gatherings, playing Monopoly, breaking out pomegranate seeds and teaching us all how to dance Gangnam style. Your friendship and loyalty meant a great deal to me: you were the loudest cheerleader when I experienced victories and you were always ready with sushi when I had disappointments. You had endless crazy ideas which always seemed impossible but you would will them into existence. (Like that time you called me and suggested that we host a brunch for newly elected mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti because “he is going to president one day.” We didn’t have enough time or funding, of course, only your desire to do it. So you did, and I followed.) You created The Daily Buzz from nothing and it survived on your steam in spite of many setbacks because you believed in a platform for emerging filmmakers from all nations. Most of all, you were a wonderful mother to your son, Ethan, a devoted wife to your husband, and a wonderful sibling and daughter to your family. We will all miss how your wonderful smile and energy lit up the room and our lives. Rest in peace, Irene.
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“You know, I was never a critic. I never considered myself as a film critic. I started doing short films, writing screenplays and then for awhile, for a few years I wrote some film theory, including some film criticism because I had to, but I was never… I never had the desire to be a film critic. I never envisioned myself as a film critic, but I did that at a period of my life when I thought I kind of needed to understand things about cinema, understand things about film theory, understand the world map of cinema, and writing about movies gave me that, and also the opportunity to meet filmmakers I admired.

“To me, it was the best possible film school. The way it changed my perspective I suppose is that I believe in this connection between theory and practice. I think that you also make movies with ideas and you need to have ideas about filmmaking to achieve whatever you’re trying to achieve through your movies, but then I started making features in 1986 — a while ago — and I left all that behind.

“For the last three decades I’ve been making movies, I’ve been living, I’ve been observing the world. You become a different person, so basically my perspective on the world in general is very different and I hope that with every movie I make a step forward. I kind of hope I’m a better person, and hopefully a better filmmaker and hopefully try to… It’s very hard for me to go back to a different time when I would have different values in my relationship to filmmaking. I had a stiffer notion of cinema.”
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