If you’re like me, one of those movie addicts who goes to extreme measures to avoid seeing dreaded, plot-spoiling movie trailers or knowing much at all about the film you’re about to experience, one way to get a quick-fix idea of a new film is to scan the cast and credits on your movie portal of choice. So here comes this week’s naughty comedy For a Good Time, Call… featuring Seth Rogen. Okay, you figure, here’s another Judd Apatow-ing number. But in fact, Rogen appears in a single five-minute scene, and he literally phones his role in. From his perch on a toilet.
Here, we have a film that rises above easy stereotyping. For a Good Time, Call… is not, per se, another entry in the endless parade of films in and around the Rogen/Apatow genre, or at least not entirely. It’s an almost-indie film, a clever-enough, good-enough attempt to juice up the sexualized comedy form by posing the age-old question: What does a city girl do when she finds out her roommate (Ari Graynor) is a phone-sex operator? The character played by Lauren Miller (who also cowrote the screenplay) has reluctantly moved in with the phone sex-er, whom Lauren recalls from an unfortunate, barf-tinged party encounter 10 years earlier. Economic pressures lead the pair to realize that phone sex is one of those great temp jobs that can be done from the comfort of one’s home. Let the come-on-ing begin.
Underlying the gleeful dishing out of smut and simulated sexy time is a feminist message of empowerment, in which our female protagonists skillfully manipulate the lascivious instincts of anonymous callers willing to lose themselves in something akin to carnal passion — at the cost of $4.98 per minute. By film’s end, we come to this deeper question: What are men good for, anyway? Although the film’s momentum and interest tends to peter out at some point, the spirit rallies toward the happy-ending archetype goosing. Girl getting boy getting girl doesn’t always have to be the desired endgame, it turns out.
Frankly nasty and with a few zingers along the way, For a Good Time somehow wriggles its way to a warm and fuzzy finale, in true Rogen/Apatow fashion, but with a refreshing twist. It’s a good time, though not a great one, that’s well worth at least a watch via Netflix.