Lauren Miller as Lauren Powell
Ari Graynor as Katie Steel
Justin Long as Jesse
Mimi Rogers as Adele
James Wolk as Charlie
Nia Vardalos as Rachel Rodman
Mark Webber as Sean
Sugar Lyn Beard as Krissy
Vanessa Britting as Claire
Don McManus as Scott
Michael Medico as James Weaver
Veronika Dash as Bridgette
Lawrence Mandley as Henry
Seth Rogen as Captain
Directed by Jamie Travis
After Lauren (Lauren Miller) breaks up with her boyfriend, she needs a new place to live so she’s convinced by her friend Jesse (Justin Long) to move in with Katie (Ari Graynor), who she remembers poorly from having a bad first encounter years earlier. Lauren agrees to be roommates only to learn that Katie makes her money by being a phone sex operator, and since Lauren needs a job to pay her rent, she convinces Katie to set up their own phone sex line using her business knowledge and Katie’s foul-mouthed skills.
This certainly has been a great summer for creative 20-something women between Lena Dunham’s HBO show “Girls,” Greta Gerwig in “Lola Versus” (co-written by Zoe Lister-Jones), Zoe Kazan’s “Ruby Sparks,” and Rashida Jones’ turn in “Celeste and Jesse Forever.” We can now readily add Lauren Miller (who just happens to be Mrs. Seth Rogen) to that roster, as she takes a cue from Judd Apatow and writes herself a raunchy relationship comedy that on the surface seems like just another female-driven New York comedy about women discovering themselves, but rather shows off the talents of two actresses who have yet to be given their due, particularly Miller.
Her character, also named Lauren, is introduced as she’s having awkward sex with her long-time boyfriend. When he breaks up with her shortly afterwards, she’s left having to find a new place to live. At the same time, Katie is having trouble paying the rent on her grandmother’s old apartment so she accepts the uptight Lauren as a roommate. Lauren soon learns how Katie has been making a living, taking calls from horny men and fulfilling their fantasies, but Lauren convinces Katie she’ll make more money if she goes into business for herself and she sets aside her job search to manage her new roommate for a percentage.
It’s a fairly simple premise about the relationship between two contemporary women although it’s a tough idea to sustain for an entire movie, even as it finds a way to mine every bit of humor possible in that setting by bringing in other characters, earning its R-rating, not with any actual nudity, but with some of the raunchiest sex talk you’re likely to see in a movie this side of “Hope Springs.”
Having never had a chance to see Miller in anything significant, it’s quite impressive to see her so gracefully transition into a fairly demanding leading role that gives her a chance to play someone who often takes the straighter role in many comic situations but is genuinely likeable the more you watch her. Ari Graynor is pretty awesome, bratty and bitchy at first, but also really fun and boy, is she credible at selling herself as a phone sex operator. If you don’t already know her work from “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist” and other comedies, this is a terrific showcase for her talent as she delivers the sassiness of a younger Bette Midler (and a smart producer should already be planning ahead for a future Midler biopic starring Ms. Graynor).
Outside of Miller and Graynor, the most entertaining piece of the puzzle is Justin Long as their gay mutual friend, who gives such an outrageous and over the top performance that he steals many a scene from the female stars. Lauren’s parents also keep showing up unexpectedly and being shocked by their daughter’s bawdy roommate and then on the other side of that, there’s a sweet romance between Katie with Mark Webber as a caller she bonds with before they finally decide to meet in person.
Another funny bit involves Sugar Lyn Beard as Krissy, a squeaky-voiced recruit who seems like a natural to help them take on more clients and having guys calling in to talk about sex allows for a number of fun cameos we won’t give away – one of them should be fairly obvious knowing to whom Miller is married.
Unfortunately, things start to get a little predictable as these two sworn enemies bond over their shared business, but then the movie delivers a rather far-fetched and hard to believe twist that threatens to grind the whole thing to a halt if you don’t buy it. Fortunately, Miller finds a way to wind her way out of it and leave things on an emotional high.
All these various elements are pulled together competently by director Jamie Travis, making his feature film debut, but he also has such a talented cast and script, it would be tough to mess this one up. While male viewers may be somewhat uncomfortable with the tone of a movie that offers female-driven sex talk ala “Sex and the City,” we can see this comedy working well as a date movie.
The Bottom Line:
Although it has trouble breaking away from predictability once the initial premise is introduced, this comedy shines the spotlight on two underrated actresses, Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor, making it far more than a little worthwhile.
For a Good Time, Call opens in select cities on Friday, August 31 and expands wide on September 7.