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I'll Buy That For A Dollar! :The Girlfriend Experience Review

 

The Girlfriend Experience

In these bleak economic times, it's good to count on superficiality and sex for some sure-fire bang for your buck.

Chelsea is a prima donna in the world's oldest profession and business is a-booming in Steven Soderbergh's newly added notch to his experimental HD movie belt, "The Girlfriend Experience.” Adult film star Sasha Grey has her mainstream movie debut in the role of Chelsea, a woman trapped in a girl's body whose ridiculously good looks compel wealthy, lonely men to drop some serious cash-bucks.

Chelsea has a boyfriend, personal-trainer Chris (Chris Santos), a somewhat decent guy for Chelsea, but he is in over his head with this relationship.

The men in Chelsea’s life want something from her and, surprisingly enough, it’s not always sex; whether it's an intrepid reporter's questions or a john's offer to fly her to Dubai. Chelsea is everything these men want and nothing like herself. However, her faith in a series of quasi-science, quasi-spiritual books leads her to believe that a mysterious first-time customer could be the one.

Chelsea’s threatens her relationship with Chris by breaking their golden rule of non-travel transactions, but he is also offered a trip to Las Vegas by his gym clients, a sort of pretty boy ingenue for a group of yuppies. In the political and economical crisis(the film takes place during the 2008 Presidential Campaigns), both are caught in the mercy of those who need them the most, whether they know it or not.

In "The Girlfriend Experience,” Soderbergh unravels the common thread between the young lovers with Chelsea's encounters with her employers by structuring the film non-linearly, making an argument over the authenticity of true love. Is it really about the feelings we have over someone, or does that person represent an idea of our own needs? If the film was told straight, it would be a dark “Sex In The City,” not a comedy but a story about the girl looking for a Mr.Big in Manhattan.

By showing us snippets of Chelsea's life in random points of time, Soderbergh states how challenging it is to find something real when something personal becomes a product. The endearing, private nuances with close ones have the same appearance in meaningless meetings with customers. For example, Chelsea gets upset when one of her top customers walks around New York with a younger escort. Is it jealously or wounded ego? A pattern of these contradictions takes shape as the film moves forward, leaving us to put the pieces together for both plot and character study.

Soderbergh seems to have lost interest in telling a complete story the last few years, instead focusing on time and thoughts within the language of cinema, like a Goddard-inspired director with American concerns. Unlike Sasha Grey’s previous efforts in pornography, the film’s climax won't land on the face, it's more like shooting blanks for those who expect titillating stimulation and delivery from a film featuring a porn-star. Soderbergh wants us to follow these characters for a brief intersection of their lives, with no reference of their past or pondering for their future.

Bitter Balcony finds it curious what type of screenplay David Levien and Brian Koppelman had placed in Soderbergh's hands since most of the film is improvised and performed by non-actors.*

The movie also refers to the financial plans of the Obama administration and the worries powerful men have over the downward turn of the economy, providing an interesting sub-plot over the truth of an economic nosedive while still trying to afford the benefits of more profitable days. Maybe Soderbergh used the script as a blueprint and let the honesty of non-actors speak for itself, adding urgency to the dialouge and story.

The problem with "The Girlfriend Experience" is that so many ideas are implied but never fully developed. The result looks like Humpty Dumpty after falling from the wall. This "Experience" lives and dies with the aforementioned urgency that carries it, and like some prior experimental efforts by the talented Soderbergh ("Bubble,” "Che"), something will feel amiss despite it's qualities.

The casting of Sasha Grey is the one thing this film will be remembered by. Usually adult cinema actors would venture into mainstream with exploitation schlock or horror films, but Grey has added some credibility to the transition by giving a rock- hard performance(no more porn references, I promise!). If the key to good acting is the ability to convey emotions without dialogue, then Grey has it in stride. She displays vulnerability and disinterest, hurt and cunning, sometimes all at once. Also, Grey’s beauty equals many Hollywood young stars, but she has intelligence beyond her years, making her an intimidating and desirable diva. This is one experience that many actresses could have ventured into, but Grey, like the high-priced designer clothes and shoes she wears during her meetings, is a tailor-made fit.

*Source of information from Netflix.com

Images:

Trailer:

Official website:

The Girlfriend Experience

Credits:

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: David Levien, Brian Koppelman
Cast: Sasha Grey, Chris Santos





Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

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