Ever since For A Good Time, Call… premièred at Sundance in January 2012, reviewers have been calling it a Bridesmaids camp follower. It’s understandable that people would associate the movies, since For A Good Time is a raunchy comedy focused on female friendship, but it’s still a poor comparison. Jamie Travis’ vividly colorful, brassy directorial debut skips the Farrelly brothers physical comedy, the ensemble structure, and the bile, and focuses far more on the comic clash (or confluence) between cuteness and vulgarity. That combination sometimes gets a little too twee: At one point in the film, upon discovering that uptight Lauren Miller has been masturbating, her bawdy roommate Ari Graynor teases, “Omigawd, you just put your fingers in your puss!” in the same gleeful squeal she employs when Miller gifts her with a hot-pink phone. But while the perky vulgarity is sometimes overwhelming, For A Good Time scores points by treating sex frankly, with playful mock coyness or none at all.
Miller plays a bland, frumpy New York publishing drone who loses her apartment when her boyfriend dumps her for being boring; meanwhile, expressive sexpot Graynor can no longer afford the spacious, well-located apartment she inherited from her grandmother. Their mutual cheap-gay-stereotype BFF (Justin Long) hooks them up, knowing they hate each other due to a regrettable college incident involving a cup of fresh piss, but recognizing they have no choice but to share Graynor’s space. Shortly thereafter, Miller helps Graynor establish her own phone-sex line and they start raking in the dough and starting to appreciate each other. Eventually there’s some minor drama involving Graynor’s sex life, Miller’s intrusive parents and employment status, and various other loose threads, but mostly, For A Good Time is just a cheery romp about two people resetting their expectations about sex and friendship, with plenty of dildo jokes along the way.
For A Good Time, Call… is as contrived and formulaic as any rom-com or mismatched-roommates sitcom, particularly in the broadly drawn characters and the improbable incidents that push Miller and Graynor apart, back together, then apart again. But within that familiar framework, there’s plenty of room for less-familiar, envelope-pushing graphic talk about post-coital semen leakage, or a montage where Graynor gives Miller orgasm-faking lessons. The material is unusual, both because it’s so outspoken, and because it acknowledges sex is fun and funny without needing a victim or a butt of the joke: While Miller and Graynor briefly chuckle that their new business makes them sluts, there’s no real embarrassment or humiliation involved. The script even treats their callers, their business, and the idea of masturbation in general with a no-harm, no-foul casualness. (Kevin Smith turns up in a cameo as one caller; Miller’s real-life husband, Seth Rogen, briefly plays another, in a grating scene that proves even frankness can fall flat if it’s too damn smug and forceful.)
And like Bridesmaids, For A Good Time still finds plenty of time for the kind of comfortable bonding that’s still unusual for women in film. This isn’t exactly the feel-good hit of the summer (or even the feel-really-really-good sex comedy of the hour), but someone should call Alison Bechdel and let her know that someone finally passed her test with flying colors.