I am always excited to see female friendship depicted on screen, and it is a shockingly rare occurrence. Popularized by comic strip writer Alison Bechdel, the Bechdel Test applauds movies that 1) include two female characters, 2) who talk to each other, and 3) about something other than a man. The lack of female friendships in films is largely, I’m sure, a direct result of a lack of female directors in Hollywood, but with For a Good Time, Call…, male director Jamie Travis takes on the challenge.
Written by two women – Katie Anne Naylon and star Lauren Miller – this film attempts to create an honest bond between two reluctant friends in need of summer jobs. The film starts with annoying stereotypes, but quickly moves past initial impressions as the friendship develops. Katie (Ari Graynor) is the slut who works out on a stripper pole and trades gossip at her job at the local nail salon. Lauren is the college graduate who has just been dumped by her boring boyfriend, and is now trying to get a job in the publishing industry.
When their loyal, gay friend (a characteristic that never moves beyond the stereotype), played by Justin Long, encourages the two girls to become roommates, they are skeptical – at a drunken party Katie once peed in Lauren’s hair – but they quickly discover that their economic interests cross all social barriers. Katie, in typical slut fashion – works a second job as a phone sex operator, and Lauren, anxious to prove that she can be sexually exciting, agrees to help with the business.
As the two girls bond over dirty phone calls, they start to care about each other as more than fiscal beneficiaries. And rather than a boy coming between them – a very typical plot device that girls in movies cannot seem to resist – the two are conflicted over their potential career choices. Their friendship acts as a romantic relationship – the girls struggle over the right moment to say “I love you” – but the film never takes the obvious road into the potential physical relationship. For a Good Time, Call… never seems to cater to the studio perceived desires of a male audience, so both men and women can be grateful they aren’t being stereotyped.
Straight men and women, at least. Because the film fails, I believe, to move away from stereotypes with Jesse, the gay friend whose characterization Justin Long lisps and sashays his way through. In a movie so dedicated to breaking gender boundaries, I was very disappointed in this performance that verges on the could-have-been.
For a Good Time, Call… is far from perfect. At times I found the over-the-top quality of the girls’ friendship annoying and unrealistic, the relationship and subsequent self-discovery between Lauren and her boyfriend is too sentimental, and Justin Long’s performance really is regrettable, but you have to give props to a film that tries to entertain in typical Hollywood fashion without all the sexism.