*** (out of four)
For years, Ari Graynor ("Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," "The Sitter") has proven why she deserves far more than mediocre movies which push her considerable lovability—even when playing a drunken mess—to the fringes.
At last, the actress gets the shot at stardom she deserves. In both moments of real drama and drama exaggerated for comic effect, Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller (Seth Rogen's wife, who co-wrote the script) lend "For a Good Time, Call" tons of charm, even when the story struggles to spread its wings.
Graynor plays Katie, a boisterous blonde in danger of losing her formerly rent-controlled New York apartment. It once belonged to her Bubbe; now it has a stripper pole. Enter conservative Lauren (Miller), who needs new accommodations after her boyfriend (James Wolk) says, "We are boring," and takes off to Italy for six months. Katie and Lauren hate each other, a result of a college party-related snafu 10 years ago. Yet their mutual friend (a funny, flamboyant Justin Long) sees an opportunity to reconnect two women who can't afford to live alone and might blend better than either one of them realizes.
Like so many young people now and always, financial strains cause employment compromises for Lauren, who's soon helping Katie run her part-time phone sex gig as an independent operation. She spots a business opportunity; Katie has obviously never thought about the inefficiency of devoting most of her earnings to a parent company and a cell phone company.
"For a Good Time, Call" may offer more dirty talk and sex toys than most of the year's big-screen movies combined, but it genuinely works as a story of friendship between two women whose defenses break down in the face of unexpected common ground.
Fun and funny, raunchy and and sweet, "Call" gets a lot of mileage from its phone sex-caller cameos (won't ruin those) while maintaining a giggly but non-judgmental attitude toward its subject matter. The movie embraces female sexuality while recognizing stigmas and hang-ups imposed by society and family members. Unfortunately, Katie's relationship with a former client (Mark Webber) unfolds too simply. The movie's pursuit of cuteness sometimes feels childish or unenlightened in terms of sexual impulses and the perspectives and experiences of people in a world teeming with pornography. (So I've heard.)
A lot of laughs will get a movie out of a straightforward storytelling rut, though, as will the chemistry between actresses who get the rare chance to play characters who aren't obsessed with finding a guy. Their jobs may or may not be temporary, but together they're building a bond with a shot at permanence.
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