Review: 'For a Good Time, Call ...' is on the line with retro fun

Lauren Anne Miller, left, and Ari Graynor are a winning combination in "For a Good Time, Call ..."

Photo by Focus Features, 2012 Focus Features

Lauren Anne Miller, left, and Ari Graynor are a winning combination in "For a Good Time, Call ..."

The reserved Lauren and the irrepressible Katie are polar opposites... and past enemies. But when both come up short on the funds needed to afford ...

Rating: R for strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use

Length: 86 minutes

Released: August 31, 2012 Limited

Cast: Seth Rogen, Justin Long, Mimi Rogers, Ari Graynor, Nia Vardalos

Director: Jamie Travis

Writer: Lauren Miller, Katie Anne Naylon

More info and showtimes »

There's a charming retro feel to "For a Good Time, Call …" that fans of indie movies from the 1990s and early 2000s might appreciate. Part rom-com, part girl-power soapbox lite, this "Good Time" has the spunky spirit of a "Kissing Jessica Stein" or "Denise Calls Up."

Some of the atmosphere can be chalked up to indie-film aesthetics such as limited sets and pedestrian camerawork. But there's a freshness this film can claim that makes it a sister to indie delights of the past.

"For a Good Time, Call …" starts with the quintessential New York challenge — finding an apartment. Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller) is happy sharing her boyfriend's sleek abode until Charlie (James Wolk) unexpectedly tells her he's leaving the country. Katie (Ari Graynor) can't afford to hold on to her late grandmother's apartment unless she finds a roommate.

Both are in desperate straits, but their mutual friend, Jesse (Justin Long), comes to the rescue. The catch is, Jesse introduced the women back in college, and it was hate at first sight.

New York real estate makes strange bedfellows, and Lauren and Katie are no exceptions. Everything one does annoys the other. Lauren is prim and cautious, while Katie exercises on a stripper pole and talks dirty to strangers on the phone.

As Lauren discovers, Katie — among her several other jobs — is a phone-sex operator. She moans and groans her way through work nightly. Lauren, meanwhile, has lost her job, and she's having a tough time finding another one.

Lauren decides to put her business skills to work to help Katie and ends up becoming part of the phone-sex enterprise. Working together helps them get to know each other — and learn that some of their preconceptions were way off base.

"For a Good Time, Call …" has moments of silliness, but for the most part the cast and director Jamie Travis generate genuine laughs. The "dirty" talk does get raunchy; still, it's not nearly as explicit as the material in the films of Miller's real-life husband, Seth Rogen (who makes a very funny cameo here).

Graynor looks like a young Bette Midler (or the love child of Midler and Joey Lauren Adams), and she channels Midler's brassiness as Katie. Miller is the straight woman in the tradition of Diane Keaton or Shelley Long — refined, but not beyond cracking wise in her own way.

Graynor and Miller make the serious scenes work, too, because of the way they've endeared themselves to the audience and interpreted the screenplay by Miller and Katie Anne Naylon. The two leads are winning, as is Mark Webber as regular customer Sean.

Long takes on too many affected mannerisms as the gay best friend, but his screen time is so limited that the performance doesn't become a stumbling block. Wolk (TV's "Political Animals") is in danger of being typecast as the boring, reliable type. In addition to Rogen, filmmaker Kevin Smith makes a memorable cameo appearance.

"For a Good Time, Call …" won't cure cancer or put a woman in the Oval Office. But it's a positive vision of female bonding, and it's simply a lot of fun.

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