The guys may have their bromances, but when it comes to films about platonic, same-sex female friends miming the signifiers of homosexual love, cinema screens haven’t been exactly rife with product. Enter For a Good Time, Call…, Jamie Travis’s female-centric take on friendship, business, and, to a lesser degree, romance. Scripted by two women, although directed by a man, the film follows two former enemies who, forced to room together as a cost-saving move in exorbitantly priced Manhattan, not only become besties, but earn a small fortune in running their own phone-sex business.
In the fantasy world of Travis’s movie, cellular intercourse isn’t only empowering for its practitioners, it’s a highly lucrative pursuit—and a legitimate way to meet eligible bachelors. When newly single and freshly unemployed Lauren Powell (co-screenwriter Lauren Anne Miller) moves in with Katie Steele (Ari Graynor), a woman she’s loathed since a urine-soaked interaction back in their college days, she’s appalled by her bitchy and vivacious personality, the stripper pole she’s installed in the living room, and, in a touch of class-condescension, the woman’s common ways, especially when she learns how Katie pays her bills. But soon, needing money and desperate to shed her “boring” image, Lauren advises her new roomie to quit talking dirty for other people and go into business for herself. At first, simply managing the operation, Lauren is soon giving virtual blowjobs of her own. So much for her being prim and proper!
Travis treats us to several scenes of the ladies plying their trade, the supposed outrageousness of the lightly lurid content substituting for real stabs at humor, even as he enlists several celebrity ringers (Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen) as callers. Similarly, the filmmakers’ attempts to milk laughs from Lauren’s even more proper parents dropping in unexpectedly to the apartment/office with our duo scrambling to usher them quickly out the door, while explaining away that box of dildos lying on the living room table, fall flat. But before too long, humor, such as it is, gives way to serious dilemmas and unexpected reveals, the former embodied by Lauren’s uncertainty about whether or not to chuck the business and take her dream publishing job, the latter present in a weakly ironic revelation about Katie’s sexual past. While the heart of the movie is the at-times strained relationship between the two leads, full of mock-lesbian practice phone-sex sessions and unrequited confessions of love, it all unfolds rather by the numbers, dictated more by the expected arc of such things than the demands of the characters. But that’s far preferable to the Katie-finds-romance angle, which suggests that phone-sex callers are just misunderstood creatures looking for love and not at all dangerous creeps.