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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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“The city to me is the only possible vehicle we have to measure human achievement. We’re an urban species now. If you look at Karachi or Mexico City or Hong Kong or London or New York or Yonkers or Baltimore or any of these other places, the pastoral is now a part of human history. We’re either going to figure out how to live together in these increasingly crowded, increasingly multi-cultural population centers or we’re not. We’re either going to get great at this or we’re going to fail as a species.”
~ David Simon

“I wondered how different it would be to write a novel and it’s totally different. It’s very internal. The weird thing about it is that I found that novel-writing was much more like directing than it is like screenwriting. You’re casting it, you’re lighting it, you’re doing the costumes, you’re doing the locations, you’re doing it all yourself as a director would. In screenwriting, you don’t do that stuff. You don’t describe the face of the actor or the character when you’re writing a screenplay because Tom Cruise is going to do it and he doesn’t look like that, whereas in the novel to describe what he is is what he is. The actual act of writing, just like shooting on a set, is a slow slog. It’s going to work every day.”
~ David Cronenberg On Screenplay vs. Novel