Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Girlfriend Experience

I haven't put too much attention to Soderbergh's work before but after hearing raves about him in the glorious podcast called Filmspotting, I've developed quite a keen interest on his films.

The Girlfriend Experience, one of his less mainstream films, is an honourable accomplishment despite the poor acting.

I love how he plays with the traditional linear narrative. He makes the audience jump from one conversation to another, from scenario to scenario and minute by minute we are able to understand more of what's it really like to be a call-girl, a sophisticated one at that. The cinematography, my favourite element of all films, is top notch. It captures the personality of high end New York with ease and it's such a splendid experience to be able to peregrinate through it's streets through Soderbergh's lens. This was a really interesting concept of taking the life of a sophisticated call-girl, whose clientele consists of rich, powerful and politically active men and seeing that story play out in the buildup to the 2008 presidential election during the economic crisis. Even though its badly acted, I still felt an odd sympathy for the main character because it is taken to such a personal level. It's shot almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary and I find these characters, so interesting.

Poster link here


  1. This was the final movie I experienced at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2009. It was different to what I expected, but I enjoyed it all the same.

    However, I take issue with a couple of observations in Jesue's review. Firstly, the acting was by no means horrible. I know some people will accuse the film's lead performer, Sasha Grey, of being robotic, wooden, call it what you will. Sorry, but in real life, not every person is Captain Charisma. Also, if you've ever met a real prostitute, you will know they can be quite sullen, dreary characters. Christine/Chelsea has a monotone way of talking, not much in the way of personality; underneath the pristine, designer label exterior, a fairly boring (and unintelligent)person. Guess what? Real life, especially the prostitution racket, is full of people like her. Sasha Grey was right not to play the character as a caricature, praise be to director Steve Soderbergh. I also really found the argument between Christine and her boyfriend (when Christine informs her boyfriend she is planning to go away with one of her clients) to be totally realistic in feel and dialogue. Maybe it's not how teenagers argue behind closed doors...I guess some people expect amateur theatrics (overacting) in such adult scenes.

    In short, given much of her previous acting has been in blue movies and she's barely in her twenties, I believe Sasha acquainted herself pretty well in this movie. The other performers were also of a fine standard.

    That brings me to my next point: Jesue has obviously missed the point of the film (or at least the point of the Christine/Chelsea character). Christine/Chelsea is by no means sophisticated, and in case you didn't get it, this was made blatantly clear by the voiceover narrative near the end of the movie. As far as Christine/Chelsea was concerned, having "culture" meant being up to date on the latest designer fashions. The fashion industry is full of pseudo-intellectuals (you know, people who use words like "peregrinate" when either "journey" or "travel" will do) like Christine/Chelsea. Prostitution is an illusory industry, the only thing "high class" about Christine/Chelsea being the economic demographic she targets with her services, but let's not confuse class with money (hence my inverted commas). Christine/Chelsea puts on a front and for the most part, it works for her, because clients want to believe the charade. They want to believe Christine/Chelsea is different to any number of streetwalkers selling satisfaction on the curbs of New York City, simply because she has a fancy wardrobe and applies her make-up better than most.

    Ultimately, this movie shows money doesn't equal happiness. Christine/Chelsea has all the material possessions she could want, but she's still not the brightest star in the sky and is horribly gullible. She makes her living working with people, claims to know them intimately, but still can't detect when people are ready to screw her over (remember the scene where she is promised the Arabian junket?). Christine's lifestyle is not an enviable one.

    All that said, the cinemaphotgraphy in this film was quite attractive as Jesue stated. In fact, I felt this movie was a pretty solid effort in general. I got some feedback from several of my fellow cinema patrons after the session. This film definitely divided the audience.

  2. Interesting points you make here Mark. Especially about the acting abilities of Grey. After viewing the film again I realised that yes, you're right, she is perfect for this role and I couldn't think of another actress that could play that role.

    About the use of the word "peregrinate" I didn't mean to sound like a pseudo intellectual, I just thought the word sounded prettier than "travel" or "journey". To judge someone based on a single word that they use in a casual review, is, to be frank, quite low.



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