Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Girlfriend Experience

“Set in the weeks leading up to the 2008 presidential election, The Girlfriend Experience is five days in the life of Chelsea (adult film star Sasha Grey in her mainstream film debut), an ultra high-end Manhattan call girl who offers more than sex to her clients, but companionship and conversation — “the girlfriend experience.” Chelsea thinks she has her life totally under control — she feels her future is secure because she runs her own business her own way, makes $2000 an hour, and has a devoted boyfriend (Chris Santos) who accepts her lifestyle. But when you're in the business of meeting people, you never know who you're going to meet... ” (Short synopsis from the press kit)

The Girlfriend Experience is definitely not an entertaining movie — which is surprising considering that Steven Soderbergh is an experienced director (who gave us such movies as Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), Kafka ('91), Erin Brockovich (2000), Traffic (2000), Ocean's Eleven (2001), Solaris (2002), and Che (2008)). However, it is certainly an interesting movie and reminds me more of the rather experimental productions from his early career. The movie is shot in video and edited in short sequences that tell the story in a non-linear way. As new characters are introduced you keep asking “ok, who's that guy?”, and “when is this hapenning? Before or after this other sequence?” So it is very confusing and you cannot really enjoy the movie as you would normally do. Fortunately, the subject was interesting enough to keep me trying to make sense of it.

The movie tells the story of an independant, successful upscale prostitute who is able to maintain (or not) a balance between her job and her personal (romantic) relationships. The human aspects of this story is rather intriguing and would be quite an achievement if it would be original. Unfortunately, it's not. It is suspiciously similar to a British TV series that I am quite fond of: Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Starring Billy Piper (Doctor Who), the series started in September 2007 and lasted four seasons for a total of thirty-two episodes. Itself based on the blog and books of Belle de Jour (a.k.a. Dr. Brooke Magnanti), The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, the series tells the story of Belle, a successful high-class London Call Girl who has trouble balancing her job and the relationship with her boyfriend. Sounds familiar? There are really too much similarities to be a coincidence: the anecdote on how she does her accounting, the emphasis on fashion, and the fact that, in the end, whatever happens, all she can do (all she knows) is going back to “work”. Unfortunately for The Girlfriend Experience, the production quality, the acting and the incredible British humour makes of Secret Diary of a Call Girl an interesting AND very entertaining experience.

The Girlfriend Experience is definitely a below-average movie. It's not only that I am already prejudiced against short movies (less than 100 min.), but this movie fails to deliver on too many aspects. When you put so much efforts advertising that your movie's main actress is an ex-porn star you gotta put at least a few hot, realistic sex scenes. Instead, she delivers what seems like an unexpressive and emotionless performance. And the ad libbing of the actors creates dialogs that feel totally unnatural. And it's not only me: according to Wikipedia the film did less at the box office (slightly above $1 M) than its production cost ($1.3 M) and received a poor rating from critics at Rotten Tomatoes (64%). The audience's rating was even less (35%). Therefore I really cannot recommend this movie for any reason whatsoever. Unless you are masochistic, of course, or an unconditional fan of Soderbergh.

The Girlfriend Experience. USA, 2009, 77 min.; Dir.: Steven Soderbergh; Prod.: Gregory Jacobs; Scr.: Brian Koppelman & David Levien ; Exec. Prod.: Todd Wagner & Marc Cuban; Phot.: Peter Andrews; Art Dir.: Carlos Moore; Ed.: Mary Ann Bernard; Music: Ross Godfrey; Cost. Des.: Christopher Peterson; Casting: Carmen Cuba; Distrib.: Magnolia Pictures; Cast: Sasha Grey (Chelsea/Christine), Chris Santos (Chris), Philip Eytan (Philip), Glenn Kenny (The Erotic Connoisseur), Timothy Davis (Tim), David Levien (David), Mark Jacobson (Interviewer), Peter Zizzo (Zizzo), Vincent Dellacera (driver), Kimberly Magness (Happy Hour). Rated R (sexual content, nudity and language). Official website.

The Girlfriend Experience © 2009 2929 Productions LLC.

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