For a good time call...

Fri, Nov 2, 2012, 00:00

Starring Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller, Seth Rogen, Justin Long, Mimi Rogers, Nia Vardalos, Mark Webber. Directed by Jamie Travis

Yuck! If there’s one thing more annoying than the dumb mainstream sex comedy, it’s the dumb mainstream sex comedy that has aspirations towards indie funk.

Nobody is likely to confuse For a Good Time Call . . . with an early Todd Haynes picture, but its mild pretensions are never too far from its grimy surface. You know the sort of thing. The characters are framed in blank, cold shots edited together with no great energy. At least one combatant is an aspiring stand-up comic. The dual protagonists’ most urgent desire is to retain their apartment in lower Manhattan. (Would these people ever just shut up and move to Queens!)

Directed by Jamie Travis – hitherto known for avant garde shorts – the picture is structured like a conventional romantic comedy. Two people meet at college: one is somewhat uptight (perky Lauren Miller); the other is a boozy libertine (loud Ari Graynor). Some years later, they are forced to share an apartment. At first they squabble, but eventually the couple learn to love one another. An inevitable third-act crisis is followed by an enthusiastic reconciliation.

The supposedly clever twist is that the girls are never actually lovers – insofar as I can tell – but are brought together by their shared participation in a phone-sex business.

The presence of such luminaries as Seth Rogen, Kevin Smith and Nia Vardalos in small roles tells us that more than a few professionals think the concept awfully sophisticated. It’s not. No amount of “empowerment” compensates for the squalor of the pals’ new work practices. The plodding, episodic script (complete with gay best friend and snooty disapproving parents) comes across like the pilot for a sitcom on a cable channel to which you will never subscribe.

For a better time slam your head repeatedly in the fridge door.

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