For A Good Time, Call…, a hilarious indie comedy about friendship, quarter-life crises, and phone sex, was about to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and co-stars Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller had birthday party syndrome.
“I remember being truly terrified,” says Miller, who also co-wrote the film with screenwriting partner and best friend Katie Anne Naylon. The screening was sold out, but Graynor, also an executive producer, still thought no one was going to show up. Naylon called Miller and said she wasn’t going.
“Lauren said, this movie’s going to play at 9 o’clock whether you go or not, so put your dress on, sister.”
In the first scene, Miller is having sex so boring you might as well be watching her clip her toenails. It got laughs from the packed house. She turned to her husband and said, “It works.” The film received a standing ovation.
It’s not surprising, but the film is: an unexpected and honest look at friendship and life in your mid-twenties, with a laugh-per-minute ratio that will make your cheeks hurt. Graynor and Miller are the perfect duo, and their performances owe debts to comediennes of yore. “Goldie Hawn, Shelley Long, Better Midler, Lily Tomlin, there was a different quality of female comedy vehicles then,” says Graynor. Director Jamie Travis echoes the sentiment. “I just love that this film surprised me, and recalled an era of filmmaking that felt like it could be fresh again. “
The film owes that freshness not only to the performances, and Travis’s on-point directing, but to the script itself, penned by Miller and Naylon when Miller quit her day job to move to LA and write movies. The two had been roommates in college, and when they sat down to write their film, they adhered to one of the oldest rules of the game. “It’s a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Naylon says. “‘A young writer should write what they know.’” For them, that meant exploring the idea of young women in quarter-life crises, and drawing from Naylon’s experience in her first year of university running a phone-sex line out of her dorm room.
The result is a comedy that’s raunchy without being gross, sexy without being exploitative, and surprising without feeling contrived. The girls, their mutual gay pal played by Justin Long, and their love interests, all feel like hilarious riffs on people you know. The writers looked to films from the 80s, and classics like Clueless, for inspiration. For a Good Time, Call…has that same feel. It’s the kind of movie you want to watch again immediately after you see it, right after you call your best friend. Says Graynor, “It’s exactly the kind of movie I would want to watch, and exactly the kind of movie I would want to be in.”
For A Good Time, Call… opens August 31st.
~ Haley Cullingham