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It’s funny how the vagaries of living in New York have become a sort of cultural lingua franca for comedic movies—first romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, and now friendship comedies like Frances Ha. Life-changing, potentially humorous upheavals can happen anywhere, but New Yorkers always seem to be on the verge of changing jobs or apartments or lovers, at least according to Sex and the City, so using it as your comedic background automatically invests the story with a sense that anything can happen. For a Good Time, Call… is a sprightly comedy full of tropes that will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Girls or Broad City or SATC, but it’s no less endearing for it.
Lauren (Lauren Miller) is a good girl working in publishing who gets dumped by her douchey live-in boyfriend (James Wolk, better known as Bob from Mad Men). Katie (Ari Graynor) finds out her rent is going up and needs a roommate, fast. Their mutual friend Jesse (Justin Long) convinces them to set aside their long-standing feud, which involves a Slurpee cup and a “party foul,” and move in together. Soon the two women find a way to turn their respective talents into a profitable phone sex business, but their increasingly close relationship is fraught with hurdles. Lauren still harbors dreams of going to work for the fictional Laxton Press and impressing her straitlaced parents, and Katie goes on a date with a former customer (Mark Webber, star of 13 Sins) but worries that she’s “all talk.”
I love comedies about female friendship, especially the aforementioned Frances Ha, which is perhaps the sweetest and most nuanced portrayal of friendship between women that I’ve ever seen. This is not that sort of movie; it’s silly and crass and not always realistic, but it’s also very funny and charming in a way that you buy into even though you know it’s a fantasy. Justin Long takes a potentially stale role as the gay best friend and makes it fresh and hilarious. The film feels a bit male-gazey at times, particularly the scenes of Katie and Lauren lounging at home, braiding each other’s hair in full makeup and cute dresses. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s closer to fantasy than reality. But it’s hard to be mad at a movie that spends this much time with the careers and friendship of two extremely likeable women.
What I like most about For a Good Time, Call… is that running a phone sex business isn’t just a way for Katie and Lauren to bond with each other or to get their respective grooves back. It’s not even just a way for them to become assertive and positive about their sex lives, although that does happen to both of them in different ways. The most important thing it does for them is empower them to express their feelings about each other, to each other. I love that they come to mean so much to one another that the third act of the film hinges on their ability to say “I love you” to each other. It’s no surprise that phone sex is a means to an end for the two women, but I was charmed and delighted to find out that the end it led to was friendship.
Ashley Wells watches too many movies and welcomes recommendations for more. Leave her one here or on Twitter: @ashleybwells. Spoiler alert: she has already seen Troll 2.