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Review: 'For a Good Time,' call somewhere else

It's a comedy about a phone sex business, about female friendship. It's also flat and mild-mannered.

August 30, 2012|By Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
  • Ari Graynor, left, Justin Long and Lauren Miller star in "For A Good Time, Call..."
Ari Graynor, left, Justin Long and Lauren Miller star in "For A Good… (Focus Features )

A meek, mild-mannered movie about phone sex, "For a Good Time, Call…" offers a scattershot take on the recent trend of female-centric comedies. It's a showcase for writing that doesn't dazzle and a story of self-discovery that reveals no new insights.

Written by real-life friends Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Anne Miller, the film stars Miller as a young woman named Lauren who is knocked off-course when her boyfriend breaks up with her because he finds her boring.

She begrudgingly moves in with Katie (Ari Graynor), even though the two have hated each other since college and come together only through a mutual friend, Jesse (Justin Long).

After Lauren loses her job, however, she helps Katie transform a sideline gig taking phone sex calls at home into a booming business.

Director Jamie Travis, in his feature debut, shoots everything in a functionally flat style that brings no real visual flair or feeling to the material. For a film that is the supposedly the result of a female friendship, "Good Time" doesn't seem particularly attuned to the nuanced relationships that can develop between women, and the male characters are sketchy outlines at best.

The raunchiest moments are, not surprisingly, the phone sex calls, with cameo appearances on the other end of the line from the likes of Seth Rogen (Miller's husband), Ken Marino and Kevin Smith. Those scenes feel tacked on, thrown in like a cheap quick fix designed to bolster the humor in this purported comedy. A joke about Spanx as a rape deterrent feels especially desperate.

Perhaps what is most frustrating is that for a film with such fussy, punctuation-specific title, "For a Good Time, Call…" is slapdash and unfocused. It's little more than a log line — Two girls start a phone sex line! (tee-hee) – in search of an actual story.

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'For a Good Time, Call...'

MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: At AMC Century City 15, Los Angeles; ArcLight Cinemas, Hollywood; AMC Santa Monica 7, Santa Monica; ArcLight Cinemas, Sherman Oaks

mark.olsen@latimes.com

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