'For a Good Time' stars, filmmakers call on real life for inspiration
Comedy partly based on co-writer's brief college gig
The creative forces behind the new R-rated indie comedy "For a Good Time, Call …" don't want people having any hang-ups about going to see the film, especially since it chronicles the misadventures of a pair of enterprising phone-sex operators.
Is it raunchy? Yes. Is the dialogue so spicy that it will make you blush? Absolutely -- but it's also a movie, above all, that's about escape and having fun.
"People are so quick to dismiss fun, but it's an important thing to have, especially these days," said star Ari Graynor, who recently joined for an interview with star and co-writer Lauren Anne Miller, director Jamie Travis and co-writer Katie Anne Naylon. "You have to be a be able to check out of your life for an hour and a half and leave a place feeling great, knowing you've had a collective experience at the movies. There's nothing better."
"For a Good Time, Call …" begins when Lauren (Miller) meets Katie (Graynor) at a college frat party, but an embarrassing incident dooms any sort of friendship before it could even begin.
Flashing forward 10 years later, we find Lauren going through a bad break-up with her boyfriend and looking for a place to live, and Katie in danger of losing her dream apartment because she needs a roommate to make rent. Luckily, they have a mutual best friend in Jesse (Justin Long), who coaxes the two to live together despite their reservations.
Struggling to land a job, Lauren begins to develop an unusual bond with Katie when she discovers her roommate is operating a phone-sex line out of the apartment. In need of some income and wise to the business world, Lauren finds a way to make the business lucrative, and along the way, the free-spirited Katie finds a way to break the reserved Lauren out of her shell. But just when the two think it couldn't get any better, life happens as personal and professional goals present unforeseen challenges and put their business -- and new-found friendship -- in peril.
Opening in select theaters Friday and expanding next week, "For a Good Time, Call …" also stars Nia Vardalos, Mimi Rogers and Don McManus.
While raunchy, R-rated comedies have made a comeback in recent years, very few have focused predominantly on the female demographic. Things changed, though, a year ago when "Bridesmaids" became a massive hit, and the "Good Time" folks are enjoying the renaissance.
"There was sort of a golden age of it in the '80s with stars like Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Shelley Long and Diane Keaton -- stories that were not solely focused on the key romantic relationship, the pratfalls and the type-A personalities that needed to open up," Graynor said. "So to be able to have a moment where women are making more female-centered movies again is great."
Ultimately, Naylon said, "Good Time" is a movie about friendship first, that happens to be set within the framework of a phone-sex operation.
"The R-rated comedy sometimes can become a movie with no soul," Naylon said. "It tends to be really edgy and funny because of its raunchy moments, but at the end of the day, what does it really say? It is special and sweet? Does it have heart? We had a story a story with heart with this movie, and the phone-sex is just the ribbon and bow that goes around it."
"The friendship piece was the key, was the focus for all of us," added Graynor of the film, which debuted at this year's Sundance Film Festival. "Lauren and Katie had worked on the script for a long time, and when the four of us formed this amazing collaborative unit it was always about keeping everything real and grounded and coming from an emotional place. Sure, we wanted the phone sex part to feel real and viable as possible, but in a way that was funny first."
Caught in between the scenes of Miller and Graynor acting as the operators and the men, to put it cleanly, reacting to what they were being told, was Travis, who said he wasn't intimated by the overly suggestive context of either.
"Nothing was awkward about it, really, I just sort of became numb to it. We would have very frank conversation about some of the sex-themed props with our crew, but nothing felt dirty about it," Travis said, laughing. "Sex and sexy talk became not even a thing."
The key, Travis added, was to find the right balance in the scenes to maintain the film's heart without going overboard one way or the other.
"We always did takes that first went a little more toward funny, and then shot them a little more toward dirty," Travis said. "That way, in the editorial process it allowed us to find the right tone."
At least one of the core group members behind the film had experience in the industry. Naylon said she was a phone-sex operator briefly in college, which she actually ran out of her dorm room as a freshman.
"It was interesting night business to have, but since I started struggling with classes I had to put her down," Naylon said, laughing.
Fortunately, it provided enough of a foundation for the cast and crew that they didn't go so far as to become temporary operators to learn the trade.
"Early on in the process we said we could prepare by everybody doing calls and it would be so fun, but then it never happened," Miller said. "That was good for my character in the movie, anyway, because she had to learn how to do it and she should have been a little rougher around the edges. The character would have worked as well had I really gotten some good lessons ahead of time."
That's not to say Miller was completely oblivious to the R-rated film world. She married raunch-film extraordinaire Seth Rogen a year ago in October after seven years of dating. Having appeared in four of Rogen's films (and Rogen appears in "Good Time" in a cameo), Miller was more than familiar with R-rated dialogue.
"There were times during the writing process where I would write some things that Katie couldn't believe that I had written," Miller said, laughing.
"Yeah, Lauren could come up with some dirty things," Naylon added. "I would look at what she had written and go, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa!'"
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