Sundance 2012: FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL… Review

     January 25, 2012

Eventually, society will accept that people saying dirty words won’t be the downfall of Western civilization.  Over the past few decades, words that weren’t permissible on television have become commonplace.  I believe within ten years, “fuck” will be used as casually as “ass” or “damn” on network sitcoms.  In this way, For a Good Time, Call… is a trailblazer in using a sitcom-y premise and filling it up with filthy language.  All of the clichés are still in place, the humor is inoffensive (unless you’re one of the vulgarity-western-downfall people), and the film provides a nice little distraction.

Lauren (Lauren Miller) is looking for a place to stay after breaking up with her boyfriend.  Katie (Ari Graynor) is looking for a roommate after her apartment is no longer rent-controlled.  The two are put together by their mutual gay-best-friend (Justin Long), but the two are off on the wrong foot before they’ve even agreed to live together.  Ten years prior, Lauren agreed to drive home a drunk Katie, Katie accidentally flung a cup of her piss into Lauren’s face, and Lauren left Katie in bad neighborhood.  It’s an understandable grude and neither is willing to provide the other with a second change to make a first impression, but needing money brings everyone together.  When Lauren can’t get her dream job at a publishing company, she decides to help Katie develop her phone sex business.  Friendship happens.

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For a Good Time, Call… feels like a 90-minute pilot for a 30-minute sitcom.  You bring two radically different women together under convenient circumstances, set up a wacky premise, and see what strange situations the gals can get into.  What if Lauren’s parents show up?!  What if someone tries to undermine their business?!  When will their flaming stereotype of a gay best friend show up to make a joke or be the voice of reason?!  The movie even has its own version of special guest stars by throwing in a few cameos.  Throw in a live studio audience, tone-down language, and slightly soften the premise, and you have the next CBS sitcom (actually, I think I may have just described 2 Broke Girls).

Graynor and Miller are so adorable that none of their dialogue is shocking, which is good since the juxtaposition of vulgarity and cuteness would wear thin after ten minutes (see: Silverman, Sarah).  Instead, Miller and co-writer Katie Anne Naylon‘s script relies on trying to make good jokes and giving fun, charming character arcs to Katie and Lauren so that they’re not just “2 Cute Foul-Mouthed Girls”.  However, the constant searching for the next filthy phrase eventually begins to feel like a crutch.  There comes a point where you can’t just ride a wave of dirty words if there’s nothing particularly clever about how you use them.

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It may speak to the “coarsening” of our culture that the dirty words in For a Good Time, Call… can be used in a cutesy roommate comedy.  Miller and Graynor are likable, and there’s just enough character development and honest moments to stop the film from being a gimmick (see: Silverman, Sarah), although the depiction of the gay best friend is cringe-worthy.  At its core, For a Good Time, Call… is in the tradition of 80s and 90s sitcoms.  It’s easily digestible, enjoyable enough, and completely forgettable.  All that’s missing is the laugh track.

Rating: C+

For all of our coverage of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, click here. Also, here are links to all of my Sundance reviews so far:

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