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Dirty talk with a sweet undercurrent in 'For a Good Time, Call...' ★ ★½

For a Good Time, Call... (movie)Ari GraynorJustin Long

It's "Bells Are Ringing," only with a significant percentage of dialogue that cannot be quoted here unless we agree on dollar-per-minute terms in advance.

In the raunchy but rather sweet new comedy "For a Good Time, Call ..." frenemies-turned-roommates Lauren and Katie, residents of Manhattan, learn what they could've learned simply by watching Jennifer Jason Leigh in "Short Cuts." Bills to pay? Talk dirty to the customers.

Katie's the one with the fabulous apartment. She's played by Ari Graynor. Lauren Anne Miller, who co-wrote the script with Katie Anne Naylon, slips easily into the role of Katie's odd-couple opposite, who scoffs initially at her roommate's line of work. Then, impressed by the revenue and thwarted in her own job hunt, she becomes business manager. And then a phone sex operator herself.

There are many things to like in this film, directed by feature film first-timer Jamie Travis, though Travis' direction — neither stylized enough to be stylish, nor fluid enough to get two or three people in the same frame often enough — isn't one of those things. When one of the main character's sexual resume turns out to be something of a surprise, it's actually an interesting one, beneficial to the honesty and the feeling of the central relationship. The script's more predictable comedy of explicitness (Lauren's parents coming over for a visit at an awkward moment, for example) at least isn't forced into outsized farce; at its best, "For a Good Time, Call ..." glides along and pays attention to what might actually make these two disparate characters genuine friends.

Though she's a 110-percenter, always giving a little too much, Graynor offers a bratty effrontery that contrasts effectively with Miller's more contained and brittle persona. Justin Long as the go-between, brokering the roommate situation when the plot calls for it, keeps 'er moving every second.

Seth Rogen, among others, contributes a cameo as a customer. Uneven and a little strident, the results never take off into the stratosphere. But even if the film should be retitled "For a Fairly Good Time, Call ..." at least we're not back on the couch with another variation on the same old group of arrested-development young adult males, hanging on to their adolescence with as much determination as their marijuana intake allows.

mjphillips@tribune.com

MPAA rating: R (for strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use)

Running time: 1:26

Opens: Friday

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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For a Good Time, Call... (movie)Ari GraynorJustin Long
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