Friday, November 30, 2012

The Cinema File #48: "For A Good Time Call" Review

Women are and can be very funny. Jerry Lewis and those who have made arguments along the lines that women are inherently unfunny are wrong. There are many examples that disprove blah blah blah, Tiny Fey, blah blah Amy Pohler, etc, etc, and there's no need to truck with that nonsense any further. I just wanted to get all that out of the way before I talk about how soul achingly unfunny this movie written by women and starring women is. I did not laugh once during the entire length of For A Good Time Call, and I'm pretty sure the relative configuration of my genitalia had nothing to do with it.

For A Good Time Call follows the exploits of two twenty somethings living together who start out as enemies forced to share an apartment, only to bond over their mutual empowerment achieved through becoming professional phone sex operators. That sentence hurt me. Maybe being a man, its not my place to presume what women might find offensive, but I have to say I nonetheless felt just a little bit icky watching a movie whose happy ending is predicated on the notion that both of these women found themselves as a result of men paying them to talk sexy while they masturbate. I know that's part of the joke, but still,,,eww. That's not a knock on phone sex operators, or any part of the sex industry by the way, which I place no judgement on whatsoever. Its just that even with the noblest intent, even if you look on the brightest side of it and think about all the lonely people who are helped by it through the infusion of even false intimacy into their lives, there is an inescapable hollowness that always comes with the commercialization of sex, be it in porn or phone sex. Ignore it if it is uncomfortable, fine, but don't twist it and pretend its some sort of calling. Its just skeevey, and its not nearly as inherently funny a concept as this movie seems to think it is.

I hate to even mention Bridesmaids as a comparison, because I imagine every review of this movie will do the same thinking its some amazing insight to link these two movies, but I can't help it. I liked Bridesmaids. I thought it was a lot funnier than I initially expected it to be, especially considering my general dislike of Kristen Wiig. When that movie came out, everyone called it the Hangover for women, which always seemed strange to me, because Bridesmaids was actually funny. For A Good Time Call feels like a studio executive seeing the Bridesmaids box office, and then blindly assigning the task of just doing that thing, whatever that thing is, and then they did it, but forget to actually put jokes in it. We know what you love America, women saying filthy things and smiling. Isn't that the point? You liked the lady shitting in the sink, well we've got a girl peeing in a Big Gulp cup. Same thing, right?

I feel more and more like John Lithgow from Footloose as I write this, but so be it. I can't say that this movie is demeaning to women, not being a woman after all, but I can definitely say that its demeaning to fans of cinematic comedy. I keep finding myself presented with situations that are clearly meant to be funny, the awkward arrival of the unknowing parents, the various interludes of oddball celebrity cameo callers, and the gay best friend played by Justin Long who says all of his lines as if there's no reason I shouldn't be laughing hysterically at every one of them. But I'm not. I'm not laughing at any of it. The two leads will say something dirty or off color with a mercurial grin or a trepidatious innocence respectively, and then I'll wait for the punchline, before I realize that that was it. That is what was supposed to be funny. And that's the whole movie. Why craft clever interweaving dialogue or an original set up with a satisfying or unexpected pay off when you can have somebody talking about cumming on her tits or throwing dildos around? All of this builds to one possibly somewhat amusing joke wherein a phone conversation is replete with orgasmic double entendres, which I may have even laughed at had the massive wall of unfunny that was this movie not already fallen on top of me and crushed any hope of it.

Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor do admittedly have a lot of chemistry and individual screen presence, its just so wasted on this listless material. This movie felt more like an episode of Family Guy than Ted did, just being needlessly crass and looking at me like I'm crazy for not finding it amusing. I have to imagine that a movie about the inner lives of phones sex workers and their clients could easily be funnier than this. At one point they try to hire a third person to pick up the slack, only to be betrayed by this person on her first night working, and by the end, I kind of wish we had followed that character out of the door and seen the rest of her adventures instead of these two boring as fuck leads as they go through all the predictable ups and downs of every movie you've ever seen. Oh, they don't like each other, but then they do, but then an entirely contrived turn of events threatens to destroy their new found friendship, but then it doesn't! Movies should be better than this structure. Vamps was better than this structure!

I know of two people close to me whose opinions I trust who loved this movie, and I can't for the life of me fathom why. It doesn't take much for me to like a movie, it just has to do what its supposed to do. If its horror, it should scare me, if its fantasy, it should wow me, and if its comedy, it should be funny. I don't know what more I can say to condemn this movie more than the fact that I did not laugh a single time. Maybe its me and I just don't hit the wavelength of this movie at all while other people do. Maybe you will. I just don't get it. Penis or no penis, I should be the audience for this movie, and it just fell painfully flat for me. If you see it, let me know what you saw in it, because all I saw was a lot of dudes fake ejaculating, and some of the most boring, lifeless comedy I've seen in a long time.

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