Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

The Girlfriend Experience


Review by Matthew Frendo

I haven't had time to review as of much lately, with working on my own projects and all, but once in a while a movie comes along that is so good, that I really want to talk about it, to anyone who will listen.  And since my number of friends decreases with every party I miss to do a project, well...

Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who usually creates work that is either the envy of every lover of film, or trepid crap (the latter of which usually makes more money...the Ocean's series for example).  Luckily, this falls in the terrain of the former.  And even though I'm a fan of the majority of his work (hell, I even liked Solaris), this one ranks as probably his best since Sex, Lies, and Videotape came out back before I started even following movies this closely.  

Adult-film actress Sasha Grey (who, incidentally, hails from one of the cities I can call home), stars in her first non-sex driven role as, ironically enough, an "escort" named Chelsea.  Let me say here that there is no nudity at all in the film, so if you want that you should stick to her other work.  Chelsea's main area of service is what she calls the "girlfriend experience" which mainly consists of her acting as if she's in a relationship with whatever client is paying.  Of course, as she states, she is playing the role of their ideal girlfriend, which is why it's teemed as an "experience".  Most of the clients she has in the movie don't even have sex with her too much, opting instead to discuss their, mainly financial, roles (the movie is set in the time period directly preceding Obama's election to President).  There are many themes developed in the sparse (yet perfect) 78-minute running time.  These include the alienation we have from each other (as clients pay to have an emotional girlfriend, as opposed to sex), our relationship to money, and how the roles we play in life can take a toll we don't always show.

It also serves that Grey is the most experienced of the actors, as most of the cast had little or no acting experience before.  Chris Santos, who's only other credit is playing "Young Andy" in the flashback sequences of Amongst Friends (incidentally, once again, I watched this movie quite a few times when younger, but seem to be the only one who did), and plays her boyfriend.  Their relationship comes off quite real, with all the problems one could have in this type of situation.  Most of the rest don't even have names in the movie, and are just seen as random people we never really get to know, which is probably how Chelsea would see most people in her life.

This is one of those movies that may not get the attention it deserves, which is quite tragic.  As battling robots wins over the hearts of an audience that does what it can to escape from life, here comes a film discussing the problems that the very same audience is dealing with, and no one shows up.  Do yourself a favor, and be one of the ones who do.

5 / 5 stars

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