The classics of modern comedy are almost universally male-driven — “Caddyshack,” “Vacation” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” are all films defined by their male leads, and the women are usually relegated to the position of love interest. However, the success of last year’s “Bridesmaids” proved there is just as much potential for a quality comedy dominated by female leads. “For a Good Time, Call ...” continues that trend with its affecting examination of female friendship.
Co-writer Lauren Anne Miller stars as the thinly disguised Lauren Powell, a tightly wound girl whose boyfriend leaves her with an apartment she can’t afford and a life in shambles. Enter Katie (Ari Graynor), the audacious girl who once threw a cup of urine into Lauren’s face at a college party (an encounter detailed in a broad, funny flashback). Ten years later, the two get off to an understandably rocky start when mutual friend Jesse (Justin Long) sets them up in Katie’s over-sized, over-priced apartment. After Lauren discovers that Katie is a phone sex operator, her business acumen kicks in and the two start to build a bond as their unconventional venture becomes massively successful.
Miller wrote the film with her best friend, Katie Anne Naylon, whose real-life experience as a phone sex operator gives the film tons of comedic material to work with. “For a Good Time, Call ...” is often very funny, and the phone sex scenes are its most overtly comedic. Graynor handles these moments with unapologetic boldness, and her fearless, perfectly honed delivery makes it clear that she is a truly distinct comedienne. A few choice cameos (including one from Miller’s beau Seth Rogen) make each sexual interlude distinct, but what truly stands out is how Graynor runs the show, even when she’s talking to some of the most prevalent voices in modern comedy.
While its comedic side is strong, “For a Good Time, Call ...” truly shines when it’s focusing on Katie and Lauren’s budding friendship. As Graynor and Miller slowly fall into the easy rapport that comes with being best friends, Miller’s script takes on genuine emotional resonance. While both leads have romantic interests, the film is really a romance between two friends. While that certainly makes for a few predictable notes, the strong chemistry between the central duo helps to disguise the fact that “For a Good Time, Call ...” has the same structure as any other romantic comedy.
Also worth mentioning is Long’s baffling, scene-stealing performance as Jesse, the duo’s gay best friend. It’s a role that could have come across as extremely stereotypical, but Long throws himself into it with such vigor that it’s impossible not to laugh every time he’s on screen. Mark Webber is an actor I’m not very familiar with, but his work as a customer of Graynor’s takes a character that’s creepy on the page and makes him unexpectedly sweet. It’s a nuanced, earnestly romantic performance from Webber, and his scenes with Graynor have tangible chemistry, even when they’re merely bantering on the phone.
“For a Good Time, Call…” almost certainly won’t have the cultural impact of “Bridesmaids,” because its subject matter isn’t as accessible and because its stars don’t have the bullet-train comedic efficiency of Kristin Wiig. Nonetheless, it’s an easy-going, undeniably entertaining examination of female friendship, and its often-hilarious script makes it a painless use of 90 minutes.