Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

A gentlemen I work with first tossed this term ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ my way, breaking down exactly what a Girlfriend Experience was. Before he had hipped me to the ways of the GFE I had heard of the movie but I’m really not into director Steven Soderbergh’s experimental endeavors, despite the presence of Sasha Grey, a really cute kid who I’m told does some really bad things on videotape as her main occupation. To tell the truth I’m not too terribly fond of Steven Soderbergh’s non-experimental movies either with the exception of ‘The Limey’ which is probably one of my favorite films of all-time. But back to this conversation I had with this cat at work, prompted by the Elliot Spitzer fiasco and what exactly does 5000 dollars worth of prostitute gets you. Well god bless this movie ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ because before I saw this I thought that 5000 dollars was a stiff bill to justify for a night of fun but now I possess a sound concept of what this five large actually gets you. That doesn’t mean I actually enjoyed this movie all that much but damn, it was plenty informative.

Christine (Grey) is a New York City high class escort operating under the name of Chelsea. Since this film is ‘experimental’ it attacks its narrative from several different perspectives and is completely non-linear which seems to be an ‘experimental film’ requirement. For instance Christine fills us in on the highlights of her career via narration as she reads from journal entries. We don’t learn much about Christine through these excerpts other than she likes nice clothes and she seems to do a fine job of listening to her clients as they whine about their lives and financial problems. Note that this movie uses the 2008 election and the current economic crisis that we are suffering through in our great nation as a backdrop, though it does appear that being a prostitute is a recession proof profession.

We also learn a little bit about Christine as she conducts an interview with a reporter who is also curious about the life of an expensive call girl, particularly how this call girl

can do what she does yet still be in a committed relationship. This introduces us to Christine’s boyfriend Chris (Chris Santos) who is a personal trainer by day and pursues his dreams of being clothes designer by night. By far the most interesting thing in this movie would’ve been the relationship between Christine and Chris and how Chris is able to resolve what his girlfriend does for a living, but this is not the focus of this film. For instance Christine is a prostitute, we know this. Chris is invited to Las Vegas to hang out with one his clients, yet his main concern is how his prostitute girlfriend is going to react to this invitation. That right there is some behavior that needs in depth investigation.

Christine has other issues, mostly dealing with trying to grow her business through modern media which introduces her to a host of suspect individuals. But more importantly I suppose Christina, an ardent believer of the interpretations of the galaxies, has met a client who could very well be her soul mate which has her contemplating throwing away everything she has with Chris and pursuing this doomed relationship with this new man. While Chris isn’t presented as the brightest bulb in the box in this film, when he prophesizes to Christine how this relationship she is pursuing will eventually break down, he was almost Nostradamus like because that’s the same thing I would’ve told the girl, but you cannot go against stars now can you?

I don’t know exactly what to make of this film. It’s interesting enough to sit through and observe but it’s not all that engaging in any kind of tangible way. As I said before it was educational in the sense that a prostitute charging that kind of long green has to possess skills that extend far beyond the ability to charge for sex. These women need to know how to carry a conversation, they have to have at least a working knowledge of culture, and they need to know how to act in order to convince these men paying this money that they are interested in the prattle that is coming from their mouths.

While that was interesting to watch, the movie was so fractured and was coming at so many different angles it was difficult to attach to anything or relate directly to anything in this movie. The movie covered a lot subjects ranging from politics to the economy and even the state of Israel, and like most everything else it was all was glossed over, like watching an episode of Headline News. Again the most interesting aspect was the relationship between Chris and Christina, and to that end both Sasha Grey and Chris Santos were fine in their respective roles but Soderbergh seemed to make the conscious decision not place the burden of carrying this film on his inexperienced actors which was too bad because they seemed more than up to the task and were the most fascinating aspect of this ultimately vacuous movie.

‘The Girlfriend Experience’ isn’t a bad film but it was an incomplete film, one that I imagine is what the experimental nature of this film intended it to be. I would’ve enjoyed a film less experimental because this movie was blessed with a pair of original and interesting characters who deserved more coverage than they ultimately received in this movie.

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