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The Girlfriend Experience (2009)

October 17, 2009

6/10 Awkward Relationships

Who knew porn stars could act? Interesting.

The Girlfriend Experience is about a high-class call girl in New York City trying to get ahead in her unique line of work while balancing her relationship with her live-in boyfriend.

Interesting subject material, but interesting doesn’t always make for compelling.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of Steven Soderbergh’s more recent movies, I think the last one might have been Solaris (which sucked), but considering he’s one of the better directors out there who’s made some pretty phenomenal movies when he isn’t churning out Ocean’s sequels, I felt I owed it to myself to give The Girlfriend Experience a looksee.

There are a couple things that probably stick out to you from just the first two sentences of this review. The main character (“the girlfriend”) is played by porn star Sasha Grey, an individual who’s acting abilities aren’t exactly what she’s known best for, at least not the kind that will win her an Oscar. Not to say that she’s a bad actor or anything, because she’s fine here, but one peculiar casting choice all the same. Then again, it makes sense that if you’re going to have a woman get naked/play a hooker in your movie, it kinda makes sense to cast someone who’s already all about getting naked/doing the hooker thing in front of oodles of people. I almost feel bad for actresses sometimes when they have to go nude in movies, like, now everyone knows what your boobs look like, congratulations. You don’t have that problem with porn stars, and I kinda dig that. I don’t know, something to think about.

Naturally, one would assume this movie to be pretty raunchy as a result of Ms. Grey being in it, but surprisingly enough, all the sex is only alluded to, there’s really no nudity, and the main reason it’s rated “R” is because of the subject material and some bad words here and there. Other than that, pretty tame for a movie about this kind of thing; pay no attention to the ridiculous tag line of “SEE IT WITH SOMEONE YOU ****”.


The other thing that might have stood out to you is that the said call girl is shacking up with what is either the best boyfriend in the history of dating or one naive, desperate-as-all-hell sucker of a guy. It takes a while to process what their relationship is because it’s so unbelievable, and therein lies the double-edged sword of this story. On one hand, yeah, it’s interesting to a degree and was the main aspect of the story that kept me watching, but on the other hand, I don’t think there are many couples out there that would be comfortable having this conversation when they get home from work:

Boyfriend Experience: “Hi, honey! How was work today?”

Girlfriend Experience: “Oh, you know, same old, same old. Banged some guys, might have AIDS, had lunch an Nobu, then banged some more guys, none of whom were you. But enough about me, how was your day?”

Boyfriend Experience: “…What was that part about you having AIDS?”

Yeah, I don’t think so.

Watched this with my good buddy Fred who utterly disliked it mainly because all the characters are totally vapid and uninteresting and you don’t care about them or their situations as a result. Even though I thought the premise was interesting, Fred is kinda right on this one. The movie feels very natural and unscripted, which works in making this outrageous relationship seem at least somewhat plausible, but the movie is also 77 minutes long and doesn’t leave much room for character development. Ms. Grey in particular comes off as very emotionally detached from everything and everyone around her, which works in a way because her character’s line of work requires her to be whatever her clients desire, but even when she’s not turning tricks she’s very blah.

Anyway, from a visual standpoint this movie is very pretty. I like that Soderbergh pretty much just grabbed an HD camera and made this movie right then and there, but no matter how pretty a movie is, you can’t salvage a boring script. The plot structure is also wildly un-chronological which makes the story and characters absurdly difficult to keep track of. That doesn’t help at all, that was a dumb idea.

I feel like this has been a somewhat harsh review for a 6 out of 10, but in the end I did actually like The Girlfriend Experience. It’s quite different and there’s an appeal to it that feels pretty fresh and intriguing despite it’s flaws. Might not be for everyone and it’s not Soderbergh’s best by a long shot, but an interesting little movie all the same.

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