Film Review: 'The Girlfriend Experience'

 
 

There’s a new trend out there for marketing films — that of simultaneous premieres across theatrical, DVD and TV platforms (i.e. pay-per-views). And Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”) seems to like the idea. His new film, “The Girlfriend Experience,” is currently available on FiOS On Demand, and it’s the first review I’ve done on a film that I didn’t see in a movie theater.

Known for challenging convention, Soderbergh does not disappoint in this exposé about a high-class New York prostitute. Porn star Sasha Grey plays Chelsea, an expensive and sophisticated call girl who, ironically, is in a committed relationship. The film follows five days in her life, which coincide with the financial meltdown just weeks away from the 2008 election. A self-obsessed society mirrors Chelsea’s ambition and desires, because topics of conversation revolve around money and power.

Grey’s icy and provocative performance is so pitch-perfect, one would never guess that this is her first “legit” role (at age 21 she has starred in 161 porn films). One would expect lots of explicit sex scenes from such an actress, but rather than go there, Soderbergh chooses to focus on her character, not her deeds. And, Grey is up to the challenge when the cracks in Chelsea’s strong persona begin to emerge.

“The Girlfriend Experience” is nicely packed into 77 minutes. Soderbergh employs a flashback/flashforward format, and it works well. His signature hand-held, static camerawork is slick and sleek, as always.
Interestingly, Manhattan street performers supply much of the score, which is a nice touch.

Bottom line: This is a film about money. And, as I watched it from my living room sofa, I began to think about how the theater experience may soon become obsolete, cost prohibitive. I felt somewhat guilty and sad.
 

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