For a Good Time, Call… is one of the first of what promises to be an avalanche of new female comedies that studios picked up on the strength of last summer’s tidal wave of Bridesmaids. When I saw it a couple of weeks ago, I was prepared for it to be a kind of boring, copycat piece. What I watched, instead, was a very funny girl-buddy movie about Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller), and her friend Katie (Ari Graynor), who, derailed from their chosen career tracks by a bad economy, go into business together as phone sex operators. The jokes are, to put it mildly, unprintable, but I found myself laughing at them partially because they were so unabashedly raunchy. Bridesmaids looks quite prissy beside this pair.
Miller wrote the script with her college friend Katie Anne Naylon, basing their characters on themselves, although with key variations. When they could not find a studio willing to take them on, they ended up making the movie themselves. They found an acclaimed director of short films, Jamie Travis, through an article in The New York Times. Funded by Miller’s brother and assisted by a host of friends and acquaintances, including Graynor, Seth Rogen (Miller’s husband), and Kevin Smith, they shot it in 17 days a year ago. At Sundance, the audience adored it.
I loved the raunch of the movie, which felt native to a female voice in a way I hadn’t seen before. Was there some other kind of inspiration for the movie, or was this just how you talk?
Katie and I, we met in college. We were a random rooming match. We were different people, you know, and she made fun of me because I asked where the recycling was. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t become best friends, and that’s what we started with when we sat down to write the script. We wanted to make a movie that we wanted to see, that showed characters we really relate to, who spoke in a way that we spoke, and had the kind of relationship that we had. And we started with that, and then the sort of backdrop of that emotional story was the phone sex, which Katie did in college; she ran her own phone sex line out of her dorm room our freshman year in college. That raunch that you’re talking about, it was really an organic thing. It was not like we said, let’s make a movie that is dirty and funny and that would be what [the movie] was about.
That put it in an uncomfortable place of having the structure and tone of commercial movie but the raunch making it sort of ineligible to become a studio movie. Did you ever feel that way about the development process?
It was frustrating, because we tried to get it out there in a pre-Bridesmaids time, and it had been a while since an R-rated female comedy had done well, and studios generally, you know, they have a very specific model. And we were met with resistance, and that is what ultimately led us to make it on our own. But in a way, thank God that happened, because we were able to say what we wanted to say, and we were able to talk the way girls really talk. Had we made it through a studio, I don’t know if that would have been retained, if that would have stayed in there. We probably would have had to take a lot of real raunchy things that girls say to each other out and replace them with things that were a bit broad.
You’ve seen Bridesmaids, obviously?
Right, of course.
It seemed to me like your movie went a little farther [with the raunch] than theirs did.
Thanks. That’s a compliment! I mean, I love Bridesmaids so much. Obviously the content of our movie certainly requires to push something a little bit further because that sexy talk is in there; it’s not subtext. So obviously the content is going to be around sex. We certainly had that as an opportunity to see where we could push that.You know, I talk about a lot of dirty things with my friends and we are really graphic and do talk about things running down our legs at a certain time. That’s how we talk with each other. Unfortunately for my dad, it’s been happening for years that we’ve talked like that. We just wanted to put that up on the screen.
Often, people get scolded for doing this in the culture. I’m thinking of Lena Dunham, a little bit, and Girls.
There is still, and I wish this was not the case, but there is still a double standard, and people are uncomfortable with women talking a certain way and when they say certain things. And we’re just trying to do our parts to say look, we’re humans, we’re sexual, these are things we talk about. I’m not embarrassed to say that. That is certainly something I want to portray in the films that I write and the ones that Katie and I write together.
It’s definitely a part of female—
I mean, the issue of sex in general, in my own opinion it’s confusing to me why people are so afraid to talk about it. In theory it’s something that we all do if we’re lucky enough at this point. I don’t see why it should be shied away from. It could be beautiful and loving and a connection between two people.
And it could also be hilariously funny.
Yeah, why not have fun with it. Body parts flopping around—that’s funny!
I thought it was interesting, and in some quarters you will get a lot of praise for the character of Sean (Mark Webber), a client who Katie ends up with feelings for. It’s an interesting portrayal of the fact that there could be warmth in phone sex. It’s both really funny and flat sometimes, but it’s possible for someone to have an actual connection in it.
Yeah, Katie, who ran her own phone sex line, that is not something that happened to her, but it happens. I’m not necessarily one to comment on real life phone sex lines, but people are just looking for a connection in every aspect of their lives, and if that’s calling someone on the phone, I’m not gonna say that’s wrong. It’s not my place.
It was just a very sensitive portrait, I found. How did he develop over time?
Yeah, it is a scary question. Who is this guy who’s going to call the phone sex line and have the operator become his girlfriend? We were so luck in that Mark Webber himself is so talented and brought such a sensitivity and realism to Sean. And it was clear in the connection that Ari and Sean had; it was such great chemistry. And so, in the rehearsal process, where Sean got to the place where he was in the movie, that’s where he got there. He feels very three-dimensional to me. Why couldn’t there be a guy like that? He’s shy. That’s such a simple, nice moment between the two of them, that they both admit they’re shy and that’s why they hide behind the phone.
It seems like the environment of the production was one where there were no straight guys around, is that fair?
I mean, no, we had a full crew… all shapes and sizes. It is very female-heavy, and Gaymie… oh my god, Jamie [Travis, the director] is gay. [Laughs] Ari [Graynor] is next to me, and laughing. Oh god that is so funny, although clearly we are gonna have to call him that now. [It takes a while for everyone to compose themselves.]But Jamie, being a gay man, had this love for women… One of the things he talked about when he was pitching himself to direct the movie was that he worried that a straight man would over-sexualize the movie, and a woman would over-sentimentalize it. So the whole thing was a celebration of women! But our editor is a straight man, and our DP is a straight man.
Which maybe is a bit unusual for Hollywood? You tell me?
I mean, sure, there are groups of people who work together, and guys who work together, but you know what? I can’t deny that Hollywood has been, in the past at least, has been male-dominated. But Amy Pascal [of Sony] is the longest-running studio head. And women are there, but especially now; there is an incredible movement of women making movies, writing movies right now.
There’s some kind of movement there in the culture right now.
It’s clearly in the water in L.A. They’re always making jokes about the water in L.A.? I guess it’s in there.