For a Good Time Call...
Directed by Jamie Travis
Ari Graynor's appearances in comedies over the last four or five years have all shared, until this point, two things: they've improved the movies in question, be they good, middling, or kind of terrible; and they've raised the question of when Graynor might get to improve a movie of her own. For a Good Time Call... addresses both: it gives Graynor her first starring role, as well as room to improve it.
As Katie, a part-time phone-sex operator turned entrepreneurial phone-sex pro, Graynor stretches her elastic voice back and forth between a worn-out rasp and a girlish giggle, throwing herself into the business of moaning and flattering creeps, like Kate Hudson with a free spirit instead of a screenwriter's hollow imitation of one. Her vocal acrobatics aren't confined to the phone: in scenes opposite her prudish, reluctant new roommate Lauren (Lauren Miller, who also co-wrote the screenplay, and has been acting on film for as long as Graynor but in less auspicious parts), Katie's tone wanders from hostility to amusement to deranged enthusiasm. Graynor's looseness with this dialogue sounds like real human whim; if she's not improvising, she sounds like she is.
The movie isn't told from Katie's point of view; it sticks with the sensible Lauren, a publishing-industry firee just dumped by her boyfriend; she looks shocked to learn from her gay best friend Jesse (Justin Long) that her ex, in fact, was the boring one. Relative newcomer Miller vaguely resembles the Linda Cardellini character from Freaks and Geeks, especially when her voice rises to a goody-two-shoes whine, and makes for a grounded heroine whose light prissiness never goes too broad. (Nia Vardalos, who has a small role as a publishing honcho, could learn something from her scene partner.) But the as the roommates team up for a home-grown phone-sex business, the movie still cedes most of its laughs to Graynor.
Those laughs don't build into comic delirium; the movie is more amusing than hilarious, possibly because the director, Jamie Travis, favors blocky, utilitarian compositions that blunt the ladies' timing—or possibly because the screenplay by Miller and Katie Anne Naylon, for all of its dirty talk, has more interest in the intimacy of friendship than the mechanics of sex. The relationship between Katie and Lauren arcs predictably, even a little hurriedly, from mutual annoyance to bonding to crisis (I would've loved to learn more about the mechanics of building their business, which the movie only hints at before cutting away to profitability), but the feelings at every stage have a funny and appealing intensity. Miller, Naylon, and Graynor understand the degree to which many buddy comedies resemble romance.
They also seem to be kidding the latter-day raunch-com. Early on, Lauren's boyfriend complains that she wears her bra during sex (stopping just short of calling it out as a movie-world contrivance) and later, when the brazen Katie describes herself as "all talk," she could be talking about the whole sex-comedy genre: happy to shock but secretly chaste. The movie's raunchy-but-platonic romance crescendos in its final sequence, with an extended double entendre serving as satisfying emotional closure. Graynor has been in a few funnier movies, but maybe not any as sweet.
Opens August 31