Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Girlfriend Experience

It's common to wonder if you're experiencing the "real" someone, as opposed to just being another person who's interacting with a front. "The Girlfriend Experience," Steven Soderbergh's first of two 2009 films, one where he controls just about every technical aspect of, gets to the bottom of this. It's distractingly and pointedly lo-fi, and sort of flat, but at least it investigates something interesting.

It's about Chelsea (Sasha Grey), an "escort" who tries to channel the least amount of emotion as possible during every encounter she has with a "client." She's part of such a big classification that, according to IMDB, it has it's own name, which is the film's title. I think this film understands this fascinating idea's potential, and that's definitely a strength. So it has its whole intellectual thing down, but as a movie it feels a little slight. Other reviews have mentioned this, definitely, but this has to be said. Somehow I wasn't surprised when I found out that the movie was this short. It seems to fit on some sort of weird level. Anyways, Chelsea goes from person to person, giving each what she calls "the time of their life" without feeling anything. Passion is not involved in the slightest, and even though Grey seems to have some in the brief makeout scenes, it would make sense that it's all a practiced game. This is shown especially in the way she, without a trace of affect, reads off descriptions of her sessions. I guess the ironic thing is that they're frank, creating a juxtaposition between the public and the private, one that, with a slight exception, always calculates well.

That exception is with a screenwriter named David (David Levien), who she's surprisingly naive about. She overlooks the fact that he's married with children and hopes to have a relationship with him, disregarding the one she has with Chris (Chris Santos). It's all sort of confusing, but I think it's meant to be, putting into consideration the staggered time structure plus the editing in of truly unnecessary Vegas plane tapes. These have a connection to Chris, but they seem to just be self-indulgent waste for Soderbergh to just create cinematography of a different tone than in the Chelsea bits. That's when you start to wonder: is Soderbergh just spinning his wheels? Does he really care about the story or does he just want to create nice compositions and be rid of it all.

I liked "The Informant!" better because it went beyond the cinematography to a point where I was interested in the story. Here, it doesn't really work that way. Everything is just so under-shot that you can't help but notice. Whatever. What can you expect from Soderbergh? He either brings his game or he doesn't. What I found interesting is how the film ends on a genuine note of passion, where Chelsea is faux-romancing a store owner. He seems to really be feeling something, but Chelsea won't unless she finds just the right person. I didn't particularly enjoy "The Girlfriend Experience," and I really didn't get something out of it. Enough to satiate my cinematic hungers? Not really. There are some really interesting issues raised here, and perhaps they're shot in the right way, but don't expect me to be having a good time. B-

1 comment:

H said...

Haven't seen the movie yet, but I definitely have to watch this!