The Girlfriend Experience
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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.
Unrated alternate cut of the film
Audio commentary by Steven Soderbergh and Sasha Grey
HDNet: A Look at The Girlfriend Experience
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Top Customer Reviews
Told in a fractured, back and forth manner, the narrative is slight and challenging, but the jumbled chronology galvanizes your focus on what's happening. This isn't just the story of a call girl, it's really about loneliness, disconnectedness and the commodification of everything in the modern world, including love.
Soderbergh is often a detached filmmaker, but this is one of his most emotionally resonant pictures since Solaris. The feeling is subtle, but it's there.
This is also one of the most beautifully photographed films of the year.
The writer/director of the film, Steven Soderbergh is best known for his ultra-successful and stylish works like "Ocean's 11" (the Clooney/Pitt one) or maybe the more mainstream award winner "Traffic." But in between doing these studio pics, Soderbergh does some truly original, sometimes downright experimental films like "Schizopolis" and "The Limey." The latter of his work is best suited to arthouse crowds, and even they will have mixed reactions.
I thought this was a brilliant film--it's exceedingly ambitious, stylistically suave, and thematically dense.
There's not really a plot per se, and the timeline is jumbled, but for the sake of simplifying it, we'll say that it follows a high class call girl played by real-life adult mega-star Sasha Grey over the course of 8 days, just before the Obama/McCain election. Non-linear plots are a dime a dozen these days, and so rarely do I see it done effectively and meaningfully ("Memento" and "Pulp Fiction" being two familiar standouts.) It seems rather haphazard at first, but by the time you're done, it's really quite an ingenious structuring.
Sasha Grey is either good at taking direction, has trouble emoting, or is a good actress--the world may not know until she does something else (besides porn.) Her performance is affectless, but it fits so well with the character (and is even referenced in the film) that I don't know whether to credit Soderbergh, Grey, or both for this suitable performance. (P.S. This is not a "sexy film.")
While the economy is the threaded theme throughout, the film touches on so many different issues, poses so many questions...it's so DENSE, it reminds of a late Godard film, as shot in a clinically Kubrick style.
That said, I would not suggest this film to 99% of the people I know, because most people (so I've heard) found it plotless, pointless, dull, random, disjointed, messy, etc.
But if you're a fan of avante-garde/abstract/utterly original cinema, give this film at least a rent (it's only about 78 minutes long) or check out some of Soderbergh's more adventurous work. To the right viewer, the girlfriend experience is well worth the "asking price."
***Note: The alternate version, in the bonus section, on the blu-ray (don't know if it is on DVD) is an even better cut than the amazing original, at two minutes shorter, a few extra scenes and visuals, all in wonderful HD.