January 23, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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There’s a principled discussion to be had about whether the Sundance Film Festival should be featuring movies that are essentially low-budget Hollywood entertainments made outside the studio system. But that discussion fades into irrelevance when the result is as hilarious and accomplished as FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL…, which premiered tonight.

Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Jamie Travis, and with a terrifically bawdy and smart script by Lauren Anne Miller and Katie Anne Naylon, Good Time at first seems to be another comedy about mismatched roommates, a la 2 Broke Girls and the upcoming Apt 23. Lauren (played by co-writer Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor) didn’t know each other well at college, but their brief encounter was enough to make each of them hate the other. However, they share gay pal Jesse (Justin Long), and several years later, when all are living in Manhattan and both women are faced with apartmentlessness (Lauren’s longtime boyfriend wants some time apart and Katie’s beautiful place is losing its rent control), he’s the one who brings them together. Lauren is smug and repressed; Katie is a foul-mouthed slob. Surely these 2 almost-broke girls will find reluctant friendship?
Well, yes, but not in the way you’d think. Before long, Lauren discovers that Katie is earning her share of the rent by working as a phone-sex operator. Initially outraged, Lauren starts to calculate the profits in that business if done right–and the 2 are embarked on a partnership. Of course it’s a silly, contrived premise, but to their great credit, Miller and Naylon, while playing the idea for many dirty laughs, also use the gimmick to genuinely develop the characters, with much more texture than you’d expect. Good Time turns out to be a genuine, emotionally satisfying love story, albeit a platonic (sort of) one.
As an actress, Miller’s screen credits so far have been for bits in her real-life guy Seth Rogen’s movies (he returns the favor with a hysterical turn as one of the phone-sex customers here), but in her first leading role, she’s a star. And Ari Graynor, who’s been marking time in limited roles since her breakout in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, simply hits it out of the park as Katie, who’s much more complicated than she at first seems to be. It’s a measure of how well-crafted the picture is that even though Justin Long is playing a variation of his role in Zach and Miri Make a Porno, here his (seeming) improv is kept under rein, and he’s hilarious without ever seeming self-indulgent. The very busy Mark Webber (also a star of Save the Date and with another self-directed picture in the festival as well) is likable as a customer who comes to play a larger role in the women’s lives.
Good Time can’t hide its limited budget, and here perhaps is where Travis’s inexperience shows; the low-budget look could limit the picture a bit at the box-office. But when your debut has such control of the important facets like performance, tone, pace and balance, not to mention the ability to get huge laughs from an audience, the technical side can follow. (It’s not like Bridesmaids looked like a Terence Malick picture.) The movie’s title provides an all-too-easy summary of its success, and the good times will almost certainly spread to a wider audience, since it’s impossible to believe the picture won’t be acquired for theatrical distribution. It’s worth waiting for.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."