Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
August 28, 2012
You may lament missing “For A Good Time, Call” star Ari Graynor when she spent a few days in Chicago earlier this month. Until you learn that the 29-year-old Boston native, best known for playing drunken mess Caroline in “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” went for a bike ride—despite her biking abilities being “a danger to myself and others.”
“I get sort of nervous and I’ll be going like this fast—which for those people that are reading this can’t see that it’s like practically in slow motion—but I’m like swerving all over the place,” says Graynor outside on a 17th-floor terrace at the Public Hotel. “Yesterday I caused a little bit of a pileup where I sort of stopped, and I didn’t know who was going where, and then two other bikers hit each other because of me. But I keep trying and hoping I’ll get more confident ... Everyone survived; I don’t get what the big deal is!”
Graynor’s presence is welcome everywhere but the bike lane. Besides “Nick and Norah’s,” she’s had stand-out roles in “Whip It,” “Youth in Revolt” and “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” and she finally gets to shine in a major starring role in “For a Good Time, Call,” opening Aug. 31.
In the film, Katie (Graynor) and Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller, Seth Rogen’s wife) hate sharing a New York apartment until becoming BFFs when Lauren decides to help Katie with her work as a phone sex operator. Miller co-wrote the script with her former Florida State University roommate Katie Anne Naylon, who actually did spend time as a phone sex operator, and the two penned the part of Katie with Graynor in mind. Thanks, ladies!
Some people will go to “For a Good Time, Call” and giggle or blush. What’s a movie that gives you that reaction?
AG: It’s hard to make me blush.
LM: I’ll never forget when I saw “[There’s] Something about Mary” in the theater. I remember that was one of the first movies that I saw when I was a little bit older and I knew a little bit more about sex and was able to really get what was going on in that movie and really enjoyed it and laughed at it. I don’t know if it made me blush, but I remember that being among the first of the R-rated movies that were like, “Oh, this is different than what I’ve been watching before.”
AG: I remember when I was a little girl—or young. [Laughs.] Maybe I shouldn’t start the story by saying, “When I was a little girl.” But I remember when I first watched “Dirty Dancing.”
LM: Oh my God.
AG: That’s when I first felt like kind of turned on for the first time. [Laughs.] That and “Top Gun.”
How old were you?
AG: I don’t know.
LM: I was 5 or 6 when I saw “Dirty Dancing.”
AG: So I must have been around the same age.
LM: And my dad didn’t want me to watch the full thing and so he took two VCRs and literally made an edited version—
LM: Of “Dirty Dancing” without all the sex. And I didn’t know.
AG: But there’s no sex. It’s just dirty dancing!
LM: Even so …
AG: The part that I remember thinking (gasp), “Oh my God,” and felt my face flush and my body tingle a little bit was when they start dancing and he takes off her shirt and you see his hand on her back with her bra …
LM: Yeah, I didn’t see that. That happens in there?!
Regarding “For a Good Time, Call,” what do you think is the point of phone sex?
LM: A lot of people will say to us, “Don’t you think phone sex is outdated? How can you still be talking about it?” But the truth is A. I watch TV and every night after 11:30 see at least three phone sex ads, so it’s clearly happening, but I think what phone sex provides is this sort of anonymity—that you can call someone and no one’s going to see your face. If you were web chatting, people will see your face.
AG: I also think that with phone sex, our society right now, there’s just every way, everywhere to be disconnected from people. People are spending more and more time alone and on their computer and it’s a little bit of intimacy. It’s a little bit of one-on-one intimacy but that is safe. That you don’t actually have to reveal yourself. But you can have a little personal connection, which I think everyone wants.
And when guys call and say “Hi, this is George Clooney,” there might be a chance that it’s him.
AG: Maybe it’s him.
LM: Who knows? I’ve heard that George is into the phone sex.
AG: We’re going to call him later and talk dirty to him and see what he thinks about it.
With this movie you were trying to be funny, not just dirty. What’s something that was said or thought of that made you say, “Let’s back it up; this is crossing the line”?
LM: It didn’t end up in the movie—the ADR from behind my head with [co-star] Ken Marino.
AG: Oh, yeah. “I love when your dick is in my mouth. It’s so meaty.”
LM: “Your cock in my mouth” or something. And that was too far. And that’s not in there.
AG: But also the irony is that a lot of the more outrageous stuff, the crazy, dirty stuff, that was more accessible. And humor. The stuff that people got more nervous about and more blushy and giggly about was the more intimate phone sex that my character has with [Sean, played by Mark Webber]. When we shot that and when we were writing that, we wanted those phone calls to feel more real because they’re having a relationship essentially over the phone. That was the stuff that we all got, “Oh my god.”
In the movie, Katie says that a little pony dies when a girl touches herself. What stigmas do you remember about sex as a kid, if any? People will see that scene and relate to the puritanical nature of the country and being taught that certain things are not OK.
LM: I think just sex in general is this, for whatever reason, taboo topic among certain groups of people. … Growing up my family was very open and comfortable and talking about things and making jokes. I can’t quite understand the discomfort level with something that really in theory everyone does at some point in their life, as opposed to the comfort level with violence in movies. I don’t understand why it’s so accepted that people blow each other up and kill each other when that’s not something humans do or should ever do.
If they were shooting dildos out of the gun, then it would be rated R.
AG: No one’s up in arms about these PG-13 movies where it’s literally about the end of the world. There’s thousands of people being killed, and nobody bats an eyelash. But we say penis and people freak out.
LM: “Oh my God!”
AG: But I also think it’s really true in the movie that women especially, although I think it can be common with guys too, often project, want to project a certain thing. I think there’s this kind of stigma where girls want to be seen as sexual and as desirable, but I think a lot of women, especially with the world of porn, want to seem more sexual than most really are. I think that’s the interesting thing about Katie or Katie’s surprise that Lauren is actually masturbating. That Katie has such bravado but in fact has a lot more issues and insecurities about it than people would really imagine. And I’ve found that to be true with a lot of very sexually vocal people.
Is there an example of that that comes to mind?
AG: I have personal ones in my mind that I could say, that people would probably actually know, but I’m not going to say names. (to Lauren) I’ll tell you later.
Because of “Nick and Norah” and some of the other exaggerated characters you’ve played, Ari, how often do people send you drinks, wanting you to get sloppy?
AG: This is the thing you learn throughout the business about your expectations: I sort of thought after “Nick and Norah” like, “Oh, God, I will never be able to buy a drink again in a bar because everyone will be sending me drinks!” Never. Not one person has ever sent me a drink because I was Caroline in “Nick and Norah.” People reference it; people say really nice things about it, but I was sure I would be getting more free drinks.
Have you tried to announce yourself?
AG: No, but people often tell me that they think that I look different in real life or if somebody else mentions it, they’ll be like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that’s you,” but I think because my general demeanor and vibe is not such a drunk mess that people are thrown by my composure.
They expect total sloppiness the whole time?
AG: Yeah. I think so.
I just interviewed Paul Dano, and he said people send him free milkshakes constantly [because of “There Will be Blood”].
AG: No way! I’m so jealous of him.
I hope that turns around for you.
AG: Thanks. Yeah, put that in there. “If you see Ari Graynor around, buy her a drink.”
LM: Buy her a drink.
Ari, between “For a Good Time, Call” and the short film “Dear Roommate,” you have plenty of experience with uncomfortable roommates. What’s the most difficult roommate experience you’ve both had in real life, and how did you resolve it?
LM: Well, my freshman year of college I had a gigantic art history test at nine in the morning, and my freshman year first semester roommate, who was not the most considerate person on the planet, brought a guy back to our little six-by-six room. And I remember being awoken at three o’ clock in the morning to (makes smacking noises). And they were making out and whatever.
AG: I didn’t know what the hell kind of sound you were making!
That could have been a few different things.
AG: [Laughs.] I was like, “Lauren, so dirty!”
LM: I could never forget the noise. That was the noise.
AG: [Laughs.] I really lucked out. I’m an only child and in college I was given a single and then I lived with people for like two years but were my best friends, and we had a really fun time. And then I lived alone or with a boyfriend. I’ve never really had a bad roommate situation. I know that’s a really boring answer.
Has there been something terrible you heard about from a friend?
AG: You know, it doesn’t sound good when your roommate’s stealing your stuff and getting … I feel like I’ve heard of some people having a little like “Single White Female” –y relationship. Suddenly wearing your clothes and having a very similar haircut and all of your friends are over. That sort of stuff creeps me out because I need my own personal space.
Lauren, how did you confront your roommate?
LM: I moved out.
The next day?
LM: No, no, not the next day. Honestly, I’m such a non-confrontational person. I may have never said anything or at least I was like, “Hey, you had someone over last night,” like I did in the movie. But yeah, then the next semester I did not live with her. ‘Cause I did not really enjoy it. I didn’t enjoy it as much as she was enjoying it, I’ll say that.
How did you do on the test?
LM: I did terribly. That was the worst grade I’ve ever received in my entire life was in that class.
AG: Uh oh.
LM: It was all her fault.
But if you were tested on making that kissing sound, I think you’d get an A definitely.
LM: I could do it.
AG: You’d get an A in something, but I don’t know if I’d call it a kissing sound. That sounded like a something else sound. I need you to never make that sound again.
LM: I’m going to do it all the time now.
AG: That literally makes me feel disgusting. [Laughs.]
Guilty pleasure movies: “‘Clueless.’ I don’t know how old I was when it came out, maybe I was 11, 12, whatever, it was just one of those movies that opened my eyes to this sort of aspirational, ‘girlfriend,’ fun life storytelling that I could just watch those girls over and over again because I want to be friends with them and I think that is something that has inspired me as a writer as I’ve gotten older, and that’s why we did this movie. We really just wanted to make a movie that we would want to see.” (LM) “Well, guilty pleasure one, probably ‘Troop Beverly Hills.’” And that’s another example, speaking of inspiration, Shelley Long in that movie, I also loved her in ‘Hello Again,’ again here’s a movie that it’s really splashy and colorful and fun to watch and silly but she gives such a fun, open, warm, vulnerable performance that’s so underrated. My sense of those actresses from the ‘80s, Shelley Long, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Lily Tomlin … they all had a certain openness or vulnerability to them where they were such smart and strong comedians in their own right, and physical comedians, but nothing was over the top, even when it was. ‘Troop Beverly Hills,’ she’s wearing these crazy outfits, but there’s something about it that feels so accessible. Some of that has gotten lost.” (AG)
How they suggest replacing the word “dildo” in print with something more family friendly:
LM: [Laughs] Toy?
AG: Sex toy?
LM: Male … manufactured male member?
AG: You should look up in the thesaurus “Dildo” and see what comes up.
LM: Google “Dildo,” see what comes up, you never know.
AG: A schwanz-like …
LM: A simulated schwanz.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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