In 10 Words or Less
A distaff Odd Couple explores sex and friendship
Loves: Jamie Travis' short films
Likes: Kevin Smith, Ari Graynor
Dislikes: Chick flicks
Hates: Girl drama
When I first saw The Armoire, one of director Jamie Travis' many award-winning short films, I was blown away. The story is excellent, but what's truly striking are the visuals, as Travis manages to out-Wes Anderson Wes Anderson, creating an unbelievably defined and controlled look that makes the films into moving storybooks. In my review, I said "I've only felt this way a few times when seeing a film, and this movie told me that when director Jamie Travis makes a feature film, I expect to be blown away, and for him to craft a film that will have the impact of a Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson." Well...that hasn't happened. Travis instead made his debut directing a somewhat broad, mainstream comedy, For A Good Time, Call..., written by Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Anne Miller. And while it's not going to sit alongside the Andersons' classics, it's obvious that his talent raised the film to a higher level.
Having had everything planned out for her forever, Lauren (Miller) has a pretty perfect life, with her rich, supportive parents and rich, reliable boyfriend. However, when he up and leaves her for a job opportunity in Europe, she soon finds herself without a place to live. However, thanks to her friend Jesse (Justin Long), she finds a prospective roommate in Katie (Ari Graynor), whom we first meet as she's gyrating around a stripper pole in her dead grandmother's no-longer-rent-controlled apartment. Unfortunately, they have a combative relationship dating back to college, and Lauren's buttoned-down personality doesn't mesh well with Katie's free spirit. But she needs to pay the rent and Lauren needs a place to live, so, in classic comedy fashion, they decide to give their own Felix and Oscar set-up a go.
The thing that makes this domestic arrangement unique (and worth a movie of its own) is one of Katie's many part-time professions, as she helps men find enjoyment in life by talking to them via telecommunication. Her success as a phone-sex operator inspires Lauren, who suffers career setbacks to go with her personal problems, to go into business with her roomie. Though only acting as manager at first, the lure of shedding her boring personality and the fun her friend has on the job leads her to give it a try as well (setting up a fun "training" montage.) Though Katie and Lauren have a great time together and form a close sisterhood of the traveling hands, when Lauren's old life comes calling, it puts the whole scenario at risk.
The problem is, the stakes are not very high in this film, and not a whole lot happens outside of character development for the two leads (as Katie has some growing up to do, with the help of a regular client she's grown fond of.) Yes, there are fun beats, like the hiring of a new operator for the girls' business and interactions with Lauren's parents, but it's mostly about the sexy talk and the relationship between the two ladies (which includes an unusually strong lesbian undertone that goes right to the brink, leading to an uncomfortably punny finale,) That the plot is relatively light on action is a testament to how entertaining the film, which features several fun cameos by Nia Vardalos, Seth Rogen, Kevin Smith and Ken Marino, is, as you don't really notice that there's not a lot going on until it's over. Once the credits rolled, you might say, "That's it?" but you don't really question it along the way.
Though the film is a relatively conventional comedy about a rather unconventional topic, in director Jamie Travis' hands, it looks damn good. It was striking how scenes that might otherwise be very plain two-shots, benefit from Travis pulling back the camera and setting the scene around the characters to make it more interesting. Even the ubiquitous comedy montage, one of which here shows the building of Lauren and Katie's business, feels fresher and more energized than it normally would. Part of that is also the presence of Graynor, who often reminds one of a younger Bette Midler, in both looks and comic power. There's a mix of crudeness, sweetness and vulnerability that makes a character who might rub you the wrong way into someone you're willing to follow anywhere (she easily could slot in between Mayim Bialik and Midler on the Beaches timeline.). Even when she's being awful, you understand where she's coming from and hope it works out for the best.
This set includes an unrated cut of the film, which runs three minutes longer than the theatrical version. The changes are quite small, including the addition of a rape joke that apparently broke a rape-joke limit. You could watch both versions and not really notice much of a difference.
This set includes a blu-ray disc and a DVD, packed in a standard-width, dual-hubbed Blu-Ray keepcase (inside a slipcover that repeats the cover art.) The Blu-ray features the usual curved Universal menu, offering options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust the set-up and check out the extras. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
The 2.35:1 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer lives up to the standard a filmmaker like Travis deserves, as his finely-detailed and -framed shots come across beautifully, from the appropriate color (which is often warm and nicely saturated) to the high level of detail to the deep black levels. No matter what kind of setting you're dealing with in this film, and what time of day, the transfer is equal to the task of making it look good. There are no noticeable issues with digital distractions either.
Though this film isn't the most bombastic in terms of the audio, as is the case with most dialogue-driven indie comedies, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is impressively active, supplementing the actors' crisp, clear voices with a healthy amount of atmospheric effects and some solid placement in the surrounds that give the audio enhanced depth, often playing off the characters being in different rooms of their apartment. Though the surrounds help pump up the music (particularly during the "doing business" montage) there's not much bass activity to be heard.
The big extra is an audio commentary featuring Travis, Miller, Naylon and Graynor, and their intimate involvement in the production of the film, and good working relationship shows in the track, as they have plenty to talk about, and work well together in chatting about the film (over the unrated version.) Produced the day of the film's premiere, the track covers everything from tushies to Mimi Rogers' breasts to pubic hair and the missed opportunity for a Full House joke, not to mention the true story behind the film. It's not all silliness though, as they do talk a great deal about the production effort.
Five deleted scenes are included, which run a total of 4:59. Some of these could have easily made it into the final film, including a sex toy duel that would have become a topic of popular discussion.
The final extra is "A Look Inside," which is a 3:26 promo for the film, featuring interviews with Travis and some of the cast. If you've seen the film, you're not getting much of anything here.
Also included with the set is a code for a digital copy of the film and an Ultraviolet stream/download.
The Bottom Line
If you're a fan of Travis' work, this isn't the film you probably expected for his feature debut, but if you can get past that, you can certainly enjoy the polished look he lent to Graynor's giant comedic spirit. It's not the most complete film, but it's entertaining enough to be worth a look. A fun, informative commentary is a highlight, and the disc looks and sounds very nice, so the overall presentation is easy to recommend.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.