“For a Good Time Call” follows Lauren and Katie, former college enemies whose desperate situations – Katie can barely afford her (late grandmother’s luxury) apartment, and Lauren’s boyfriend kicked her out to chase skirts in Italy – bring them together, as roommates and business partners. To give a little background, Lauren is bold, witty and unapologetic about who she is; Katie, on the other hand, is very reserved, bland, uptight and almost unlikable at first. It makes sense that they were college frenemies.
A few weeks ago, my roommate returned from a RedBox with the film, “For a Good Time Call.” When she said it was a movie about two women who start a phone sex hotline out of their apartment, my initial thought was I don’t know if I’m in the mood to be offended right now. I made many assumptions about this movie – namely that these women would be portrayed negatively and as in need of saving – but it didn’t take long till I realized I was hooked.
About twenty minutes in is when things start to get interesting – the hilarious scene where we discover that Lauren works for a sex hotline. Katie hears a faint moan coming from Lauren’s room, follows it up, and pushes open Lauren’s door. The audience gets this great shot of Lauren; phone in hand and standing on her bed, she freezes where she was obviously just jumping, says “Come on my face. Gotta go. Bye” and hangs up the phone. After Lauren explains (and defends) her job to Katie, Katie convinces Lauren to start her own phone sex business, which Katie would help manage from the sidelines. They decide on a number, which Lauren yells out of her window: “Hello, world! For a good time call 1-900-MMM-HMMM.”
After accidentally hiring an “undercover Christian” and losing half of their clients, Katie decides it’s her time to step up to the plate. What follows is a dangerously entertaining montage of Lauren training Katie to “talk dirty.” My original critique of the movie was that, even though it sheds a positive light on sexuality, the women seemed to center their sexuality on the desires of males alone. This scene told me to shut up and enjoy the movie. Here are a few gems:
Katie: I want to take you to dinner when I see you in that dress. Then, after dinner, I’m going to take you home and I’m going to fuck you.
Katie (left): I want to rub my breasts when I see you in that dress. I want to rub my own breasts when I see you in that dress.
Lauren: (laughing) Well I just blew my load all over your tits. I’ll see you inside. (Translation: You’re ready to do this for real now.)
This film gives sex a rather blasé treatment, and it plays a major role in what makes this movie so charming. Sex is spoken about openly and (often loudly). Rather than being treated as a dirty little secret, sex is tackled head on. This was uncomfortable for Katie at first. In this sense, Katie’s character is probably relatable to a lot of people who are at least somewhat open but haven’t learned or lived positive sexuality.
Even though Katie internalizes feelings of shame (decreasingly, but nonetheless) throughout the film – frequently defending her “non-whore” status, initially claiming she was above phone sex, and lying to her parents about her new job – the audience isn’t supposed to sympathize with her. What I mean by that is, her fear of sexuality, and more importantly her own sexuality, is portrayed as a (relatable) negative. When Lauren and Katie are juxtaposed, the audience is conditioned to favor Lauren for her genuineness and confidence, whereas with Katie the audience is conditioned to wait somewhat eagerly to see if Katie will break free of her shell and just relax, be herself, laugh even.
A big part of sex positivity comes from respecting the choices of others; everyone doesn’t have to do sexuality the same (and thank goodness for that!). In the first third of the film, Katie accepts Lauren’s job enough to help but still looks down upon it. Over time though, we see Katie become entertained and fascinated by the phone sex business. This transition marks Katie’s first sex positive act (that we see, anyway).
In preparing to write this review, I read a number of reviews criticizing this movie and phone sex hotlines in general. The late Robert Ebert called it “stupid, vulgar, crass and mercilessly formulaic.” This was basically my review of “The Hangover” – but I was still doubled over laughing in the theater. Although, I think, having been an avid reader of his reviews, Ebert would say something similar about a movie with the same plot starring men, I can’t say the same for the rest of America. Just to bring that point home, I don’t think most Americans are used to seeing women be sexual in a way that isn’t for a male gaze, so it’s not surprising that this movie hasn’t gotten the warmest reception.
However, I would give this movie a hug if I could. It’s not perfect or for the faint hearted, but it paints of positive picture of women who do their sexuality the way they chose too. It critiques slut shaming and treating sex like something to be embarrassed of. There aren’t side characters calling them whores. We don’t see them receive any repercussions for their sexuality. We don’t see them get disrespected. We don’t see them as being weak, or desperate, OR CRAZY! We see them being emotionally secure, financially stable, happy and downright whimsical. This movie glorifies having the healthy, consensual, shameless and enjoyable sexuality of YOUR choice, regardless of gender or any other identity.