Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Girlfriend Experience

So I'm back (from outer space) and I'm attempting a new (to me) film/movie/talking picture (or two) a day. And the idea is to write about them.

For a semi-experimental film about an escort and starring an honest-to-todger porn star, Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience has precious little sex or nudity of any kind. What it seems to be is a disjointed film, chronologically, narratively, and thematically. Is it about a specialized escort trying to make it to a higher class? Is it about the decline of her relationship with her boyfriend, who's okay with her sex work-- to a point? Is it about the recession and the silly expenditures the rich people indulge in despite the financial crisis? Well, obviously it's all these things, but nothing every really gels, and no plot strand seems to reach fruition, or-- tee hee-- climax.

The titular girlfriend experience is a service protagonist Chelsea (Sasha Grey, whose career is mirroring her character's a bit-- a sex worker trying to make it up a few rungs higher on the ladder of legitimacy) provides, as well as her own relationship with the boyfriend, whose plot arc never goes anywhere despite all the screentime wasted on it. So much of the film seems a bit of a waste, and whether it's because Soderbergh is more content to meander than clearly move forward, or because Grey's acting is, while not terrible, incredibly flat, I'm not sure. Should the audience project on her character like her clients do, molding her into whatever they need, particularly the ladyfriend they wish for? That would be the pretentious film student's view, but I was hoping for something a bit more concrete.

If anything, a more conventional plot or tone would've helped this, and for an independent film, that's surely crazy talk. So many directions could have been taken, but the filmmakers appear more content to just let everything sit there onscreen instead. If the film were a call girl, I'd complain that her rates are too high. She's a pretty thing, sure, but I thought she'd have more substance, and the sex should be better.

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