Movie Reviews: For a Good Time, Call ...

For a Good Time, Call ... **

Movie Reviews: For a Good Time, Call ...

How far would you go to pay rent on a fabulous New York apartment? Former enemies Lauren (Lauren Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor) set aside their differences in order to share a spacious two-bed in Gramercy Park in For a Good Time, Call … (16s), and agree to a radical way of paying the bills when they set up an informal phone-sex service. Given that Jaime Travis’s movie (co-written by Miller) is an urban fairytale in the same vein as the sitcoms Friends and Sex and the City — and yes, it does feel that dated, with its pushbutton phones, leopard-print dresses, and denim catsuits — it comes as no surprise that the ladies’ biggest problems arise because they’re too successful at what they do. Essentially a feelgood coming-of-age comedy about Lauren and Katie’s belated awareness of the true nature of their sexuality, the movie aims for a blithe, carefree tone that appears to be channelling the spirit of Doris Day, albeit a Doris Day who wields her fair share of sex toys. It’s all good clean fun, but the wide-eyed parody of Manhattan metrosexuality is too self-consciously kooky to allow for any real emotional heft, and Lauren and Katie come off irritating rather than endearing. For a really good time, you may want to look elsewhere.

Jacques Audiard’s latest, Rust and Bone (15A), offers another variation on the hardboiled heroes who featured in his previous films, The Beat My Heart Skipped (2005) and A Prophet (2009). Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a street-fighting man who arrives in Antibes with his young son, Sam (Armand Verdure); scrabbling to make a living, Ali meets the vivacious Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a trainer of killer whales who suffers an horrific attack at work. The story is ostensibly a romantic drama, but one that lacks all sentimentality. Ali seems to lack all the paternal instincts and is only truly, briefly content when engaged in sex or bare-knuckle brawling. Yet it’s his brusque manner that breaks through Stephanie’s wall of self-pity after she loses her legs in the aquarium. Indeed, the pair don’t so much embark on a tentative romance as agree to hook up for sex whenever Ali is free, but even that most casual of human contact is sufficient to allow Stephanie begin rebuilding her life. Schoenaerts and Cotillard are both powerful in the central roles, although it would be misleading to suggest they create the kind of chemistry expected from by-thenumbers romance movies. Theirs is a more abrasive relationship, one that scrapes away at the expected pieties to explore the metaphorical wounds that lie beneath their physical scars. By no means a feelgood experience, Rust and Bone is an unusually honest and pragmatic take on the traditional love story.

Pitched at the younger end of the teenage market, Fun Size (PG) stars Victoria Justice as Wren, a put-upon teen whose party plans for Halloween are ruined when her mother, Joy (Chelsea Handler), decides she wants to spend the evening with her toyboy. Lumbered with her younger brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), Wren is dismayed to find herself trick-ortreating — but things go from bad to worse when Albert disappears. An amiable, low-key adventure tale, Fun Size errs on the bland side — it’s made by Nickelodeon — although it does offer an interesting role-reversal, as Wren takes on the parenting responsibilities while her mother dresses up as a schoolgirl to go partying. Johnny Knoxville pops up in the latter stages as a Halloween bogeyman, but don’t let that put you off — this is sweet, wholesome and occasionally offbeat fun.

An unusually mannered noir from Russia, Elena (15A) stars Nadezhda Markina as the eponymous heroine who is torn between the financial demands of her shiftless son and the expectations of her wealthy husband, whom she married late in life. The film patiently builds its tension by quietly exploring the clash between conventional morality and the imperative of blood ties, as the apparently docile Elena reveals herself to be capable of an unexpected ruthlessness. Sombre in tone, bleak in outlook, Elena is a riveting drama illuminated by Markina’s brilliant performance.

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