'The Girlfriend Experience'
(Sasha Grey, et al / DVD / NR / 2009 / Magnolia Home Entertainment)
Overview: Chelsea (Adult Film Star Sasha Grey in her mainstream film debut), a $2,OOO-an-hour Manhattan call girl, offers more than sex to her clients; it's her companionship and conversation that provides her customers with the complete girlfriend experience. Chelsea thinks she has her life totally under control, but when you're in the business of meeting people, control can be easily manipulated.
DVD Verdict: The latest entry in Soderbergh's non-Ocean's X repertoire is slight but effective. Set in late 2008, it contains references to the subprime credit collapse and presidential election that render it almost instantly dated, but that is clearly on purpose. The Girlfriend Experience is ephemeral by design.
The movie is cut even more out of sequence than The Limey, so the story's main conflict takes on extra weight as we're forced to puzzle it together. Kudos to Soderbergh for making a movie about prostitution that's not the least bit sensationalistic. Though one of the film's core concerns is the way working as an escort can make it difficult to have a regular relationship, this arises organically from the particular characters, without a hint of moralism. In fact there's almost no sex in the movie, just a lot of talk about money, which feels right and is a deeper taboo anyway.
Given the lack of any explicit scenes, the casting of porn star Sasha Grey seems like a bit of a stunt. Plenty of actresses could have handled the brief nudity, and plenty more could have delivered their lines with feeling. Maybe she's giving a brilliant fake-naive performance, but it sure seems like Sasha Grey can't act. Even this is not a problem, however, because everyone else in the movie can, so she comes off as stiff and distant which suits the character.
The disc contains an alternate cut of the movie. Nothing profoundly different--just a slightly different choice of out-of-sequence edits, but for my money it's tighter than the theatrical release so I'm glad it got to see the light of day. [WPM] This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Unrated alternate cut of the film
Audio commentary by Steven Soderbergh and Sasha Grey
HDNet: A Look at The Girlfriend Experience