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Entries in Girlfriend Experience/The [2009] (1)


The Girlfriend Experience (2009)

Blown Job

Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience is a fascinating sketch of a movie. It appears the director had an idea for a picture about a call girl who serves high-class clients during hard economic times, but that he either didn’t have the time or the focus to create a feature-length film. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Much of the buzz surrounding The Girlfriend Experience came from its star, Sasha Grey, a young porn sensation staking her claim in legitimate showbiz. I’m happy to report that she does just fine as Chelsea, the closed-book New York prostitute who juggles sleeping with day-traders and carrying on a committed relationship with her boyfriend, Chris (Chris Santos). Grey will not likely win any awards for this role; her detached monotone is believable as an affected, necessary professional wall, but it could also be construed as the actress just running lines. She has a natural confidence and power over the men she acts against that works to her advantage. And in case you’re wondering, no, this movie is not an art house porn flick: Soderbergh rightly focuses on the drama and leaves Grey’s other career on Cliphunter, where it belongs.

The screenplay by David Levien and Brian Koppelman barely fills out the lean 77-minute run-time, and Soderbergh does his best to pad the film with neat tricks like lingering on out-of-focus scenery and leaving in voiceover mistakes by Grey. These give the movie what could be called a “raw quality” by pretentious assholes, but they are designed to distract from the incomplete narrative and confounding thesis (these flaws are also aided by non-linear storytelling, the crutch of any screenwriter who is not Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan).

The story bounces between Chelsea’s gigs servicing whiny Wall Street players and Chris’s attempts to quit his job as a personal trainer at a gym in order to work at another, higher profile one. He also gets invited by one of his clients to fly on a private jet to Vegas for a weekend—which he does—but we never learn why it was so important that he go. Throw in another sub-plot about Chelsea kind of falling for one of her Johns and (maybe) breaking up with Chris, and you have a half-season of CW drama shoe-horned into a movie that tries to be about many things and risks adding up to nothing.

Despite all that, I recommend watching this movie. Like 2005’s Bubble, Steven Soderbergh took a break from big-budget, high profile labors and invested $2 million dollars and two weeks of shooting into a neat idea that he was clearly passionate about—for awhile. The Girlfriend Experience is timely in its message about global economic disaster chipping away at the luxuries of the privileged; it is also timely in its style of delivery: it’s like an elaborate Tweet that ran out of characters before getting to the point.