Jamie Travis, For a Good Time, Call..., 2012, color film in 35 mm, 86 minutes. Lauren and Katie (Lauren Anne Miller and Ari Graynor). Photo: Ryder Sloane / Focus Features.


WITH THE IMPRESSIVE box office generated last year by Bridesmaids—fueled in part by women filmgoers grateful for a pungent distaff-centered comedy free of both Katherine Heigl and the worldview that being a single female (or, more generally, having two X chromosomes) is a pathological condition—Hollywood studios and private investors are hoping that nothing succeeds like success. A post-Bridesmaids trendlet is borne out in the near-simultaneous release of Bachelorette and For a Good Time, Call..., both of which premiered at Sundance in January. The two newer films are smothered in more raunch than their standard-bearing predecessor, but here the similarities end.

Mundane vulgarity, such as mountains of snorted cocaine and a lengthy disquisition on blowies, is the only distinguishing feature of Bachelorette, written and directed by Leslye Headland, adapting her 2010 Off-Broadway play of the same name. (Focusing on gluttony, this is the second in her stage series based on the seven deadly sins.) Three high-school friends (class of ’99) reunite in New York for the wedding of the fourth member of their school-days clique, Becky (Rebel Wilson, who played Kristen Wiig’s bloodily tattooed roommate in Bridesmaids). Aghast that Becky’s sky-high BMI hasn’t precluded her from landing a loving, kind, handsome, wealthy groom, this trio of single, slender, backstabbing Millennials—led by Regan (Kirsten Dunst, usually a boon to any film but here miscast), who corrals the substance-abusing Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher)—not-so-subtly try to sabotage their pal’s big day. The female frenemy passive-aggression; the tonally schizoid, late-act PSA about bulimia; and the name-checking of Gen Y cultural touchstones are grating enough. But the worst offense is Bachelorette’s determination to remind viewers of its “transgressions.” After prodigious tooting, Gena and/or Katie begin every third sentence with “I know I’m high” or “I know I’m on drugs,” typical of the film’s desperation to appear scandalous and its enervating redundancy.

Less overbearing and more enjoyable if still flawed is For a Good Time, Call..., directed by Jamie Travis, here making his feature-film debut, and written by Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Anne Miller, who also stars. Miller plays dutiful Lauren, who, after losing her dull boyfriend and publishing job, reluctantly moves into the palatial Gramercy Park apartment that once belonged to the granny of Katie (Ari Graynor), the jumpsuit-wearing sexerciser toiling at a variety of part-time jobs, including freelance, at-home phone-sex work. The new roomies, at first unwilling to drop the grudge stemming from a decade-old college incident involving a pee-filled Big Gulp, quickly warm to each other: Practical Lauren convinces Katie to start her own XXX chat line, becoming first her business manager and then a professional dirty talker in her own right. The delights of the film, particularly the frequent hilarity of the smutty scenarios and the easy chemistry between Miller and Graynor, are undermined by the puzzling faux-lezziness that defines Lauren and Katie’s strictly platonic bond. Feeble double entendres and semi-awkward declarations of “I love you” aren’t so much bold gambits about its two leads slip-sliding on the Kinsey scale as throwaway titillation—which I hope doesn’t lead to a new genre of comedy: homance.

Melissa Anderson

For a Good Time, Call opens in select cities on August 31 before expanding September 7; Bachelorette, currently available on VOD, will be released theatrically September 7.