'For a Good Time, Call…' (R)

As any New Yorker will tell you, the single biggest challenge of living in the city is finding an affordable apartment. Compromises must always be made: Roommates, fifth-floor walk-ups, long walks to subway stations, sketchy neighborhoods, deep credit and reference checks. By the time you have a small patch of living space to call your own — and not everyone succeeds at getting one — the feeling is euphoric. You have conquered the world.

In For a Good Time, Call…,  Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller, who also co-wrote the screenplay) gets dumped by her boyfriend and is forced to move out. Her spastically effeminate friend Jesse (Justin Long, drawing one time too many from the swishy gay-guy schtick) sets her up with Katie (Ari Graynor), who is about to be evicted from her swanky rent-controlled apartment unless she finds a roommate. The two women barely know each other — until Lauren discovers Katie runs a phone-sex operation from her apartment, and a business partnership is born.

For a Good Time, Call… marks the directorial debut of Jamie Travis, who could have used a year or two more in film school (the lighting is drab, the set-ups ugly, the performances pitched to deafening-shrill). Everything in the movie is played for clownish laughs — oh my gosh, Lauren’s parents have dropped in for an unexpected visit! — and even though the characters are New Yorkers who should be at least a tiny bit savvy about life in the big city, the characters behave like country bumpkins who just unpacked their U-Haul. And the girls’ phone-sex routines are neither funny nor a turn-on. They sound like dialogue written by people who have never so much as flirted with someone at a bar.

There are several cameos in For a Good Time, Call… by famous actors portraying the girls’ phone-sex clients, including Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen, but they’ve been clearly been left to improvise, and they don’t put much effort into their routines. For a Good Time, Call… would have probably gone straight to video without their presence. My guess is that they pitched in as a favor. What they should have done, though, is advised their pals to scrap the entire project. For a good time, don’t.

Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, James Wolk, Nia Vardalos, Justin Long.

Director: Jamie Travis.

Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon, Lauren Anne Miller.

Producers: Katie Anne Naylon, Lauren Anne Miller, Josh Kesselman.

A Focus Features release. Running time: 88 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, explicit sex talk, adult themes. Opens Friday Sept. 7 at area theaters.


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