GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, THE
Chelsea (Sasha Grey) is a highly paid, high-end Manhattan call girl, who deliver not only than sex to her clients, but companionship, conversation and all the things one might expect from a real girlfriend. Chelsea thinks she is in control of her life with a secure future (earning $2,000 per hour) and devoted boyfriend Chris (Chris Santos), who accepts her lifestyle. But when you are in the business of meeting people, you never know who you will meet, nor will you know how you will feel.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's a bit like an unsatisfying sexual encounter -full of anticipation but not complete. One thing that does deliver, however, is 21 year old porn star Sasha Grey, who tantalises at every turn as the hooker who offers The Girlfriend Experience. Steven Soderbergh's typecasting is effective, but not for the reason you might think. Apart from a hint of nudity, there is no titillation, sex or eroticism. But Grey drips with on-screen presence and oodles of je ne sais quoi. She has confidence is spades and has an appealing vulnerability - until you catch the glint in her eyes, when we see a tough edge. But there is something about her that we want to discover. She knows what she's talking about - and it shows.
It's a curious film about sex, relationships, money and business thrown together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle in which timeframes are thrown together higgledy piggledy and which beyond its fly-on-the wall appeal, feels like an out of sequence snapshots and impressions. The fact that Soderbergh has set his film during five days during the lead up to the 2008 presidential elections, allows the financial concerns of the various characters and clients to flow naturally. Chelsea's jeweler client recommends investing in gold, rather than diamonds; a seedy 'Erotic Connoisseur' (I didn't know there was such a thing!) wants a freebie as payment for a glowing review to promote more business. A hustler is organizing a junket to Dubai where 'cash flows out of water faucets' ('It sounds like a white slavery ring, but it's not'). It's all about growing her business. Yes, the sex business.
What do men want for a Girlfriend Experience? 'They want what they want you to be', Chelsea says. 'If they wanted you to be yourself, they wouldn't be paying you.' It comes as somewhat of a shock that Chelsea has another life beyond the fantasies of her paying clients. Her live-in boyfriend Chris (Chris Santos), who works as a trainer at the gym reassures her she is the best at what she does, but there's a shift in Chelsea's confidence levels from the beginning of the film's journey. Soderbergh also shot and edited the film, giving it an often jerky feel that succeeds at making you feel that life is indeed a bumpy ride. When it all boils down, sex and money is what it's about. Needs and dreams have to fit in the cracks.
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GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, THE (M)
CAST: Sasha Grey, Chris Santos, Peter Zizzo, Timothy J. Cox, Timothy Davis, Jeff Grossman, Ted Jessup, Kimberly Magness
PRODUCER: Mark Cuban, Gregory Jacobs, Todd Wagner
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
SCRIPT: David Levien, Brian Koppelman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steven Soderbergh
EDITOR: Steven Soderbergh
MUSIC: Ross Godfrey
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carlos Moore (art direction)
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 3, 2009