The Girlfriend Experience
Runtime: 1 hr 21 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Sasha Grey, Chris Santos, Glenn Kenny, Peter Zizzo
It's a Whole New 'Experience' - Sasha Grey Goes Legit.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
The Girlfriend Experience is another one of Steven Soderbergh's low-budget, indie pet projects, like Bubble and Full Frontal. I thought Bubble was a profound mini-whodunit about the modern American working class. Full Frontal is pretty much unwatchable; it was shot when DPs didn't know what the fuck they were doing with digital cameras, and it reeks of insider-y smugness. Consistently intriguing but far from great, The Girlfriend Experience takes up strong middle ground between those two previous efforts.
Set in the high-finance world of New York City, the film stars Sasha Grey as a highly sought-after escort who provides a special kind of service: She pretends to be your girlfriend. Grey's previous credits include Fuck Slaves and the pornographic spoof of Pirates of the Caribbean. This is her first "legit" acting gig. For those expecting something similar to her work in the adult entertainment industry, you should know that Soderbergh isn't all that interested in onscreen sex. (That makes The Girlfriend Experience the latest in a long list of films that never actually show prostitutes doing what they get paid to do.)
I think the word that best describes Soderbergh these days is "enigmatic" - it's difficult to tell what he's up to. In The Girlfriend Experience, he keeps cutting away to four guys on a plane joking about the stock market. Ultimately, it all connects. But for the most part the movie (which runs a scant 77 minutes) seems indifferent to the viewer's experience, which may explain why I saw it in an empty - I mean entirely empty - theater. Does Soderbergh think alienating his audience will earn him street cred? If so, he's probably right.
Despite the director's cold, standoffish style, the movie frequently comes to life. Grey's exhibitionism (not to mention her fierce intellect) shines though, and the supporting players are all game. My favorite bit involves an impossibly seedy character played by Glenn Kenny, the former film critic for Premiere Magazine. I grew up reading Kenny's reviews and idolizing him to a certain extent, so it's astonishing to see him here: a bloated whale of a man, spewing vitriol about Dubai and Russian hookers. This character proves that, 20 years after Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Soderbergh still has the power to make us squirm. I wonder what that will mean for his upcoming Cleopatra and Liberace projects.