The Girlfriend Experience

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The Girlfriend Experience
Released hot on the heels of ‘The Informant!’ – though actually made before it – comes an equally rewarding Soderbergh film. But this time it’s even more indie in spirit, low-budget, mostly boasting non-professional actors (save for 21-year-old porn star Sasha Gray as the lead), and offering not so much a plot as an impressionistic portrait of a lifestyle dilemma.
Deluxe Manhattan callgirl Chelsea (Gray) gives good company: for $2,000 an hour she offers regular upmarket clients not just sexual satisfaction but looks, decent conversation, agreeable company – what they’d like from a real girlfriend. She’s mapped her future meticulously, and even the personal trainer she lives with is cool with her business plan. But a couple of unforeseen events rock the boat: she visits an ‘erotic connoisseur’ whose offer to help raise her online profile turns sour, and she finds herself, simply on the evidence of a phone call, unusually attracted to a potential new client.

Set during the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections, this is no sex film (though it does go as far as a kiss); nor, for all the characters’ talk of money, work, Obama and other timely issues, is it a dry political tract on the ethics or economic basis of prostitution today. Rather, the film takes a curious but clear-eyed and compassionate look at one young woman’s attempts to maintain near-absolute control of her life, even when new, complex emotions arise. Naturalistic performances and stylish, semi-documentary-style cinematography and editing (both courtesy of the director) make for an engrossing, insightful study of internal and interpersonal conflict; while an affecting coda merely confirms the understated, non-judgmental tenderness underpinning the entire movie.

By: Geoff Andrew


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday December 4 2009
Duration: 77 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Sasha Grey
Chris Santos
Peter Zizzo

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

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Piggy Bodine

I saw this last night. In a cinema that had no heating (they informed us before we went in but wouldn't give us a discount for wearing our duvet coats and hats!) but I digress. It reminded me a lot of Lost in Translation. I really like Lost in Translation. Sasha probably won't get much more straight film work where she doesn't have to take her clothes off, but she made a lot of sense being cast in this. It was very much like a documentary/living diary type film. The camerawork, being very erratic, worked well. The storyline started and finished without a start and a finish. It made me feel odd watching it. I would watch it again (but not pay another £10.50 to do so). Sasha's jawline is wrong. It's too wide. It was good seeing the interaction between the different characters and they all seemed very sad. And the end made you realise that whatever happens, whatever direction people may wish to divert to, they always just drop back into the usual too easily. It takes something special to change it. I'm glad I don't earn money from sex. I enjoy it way too much to want to do that!