The Girlfriend Experience
Steven Soderbergh :: USA :: 2009 :: 1h25
Chelsea (Sasha Grey) is a young escort prostitute who is working on her business of draining as much money out of men she can manage, while keeping them company through the credit crunching storm, pretending she cares for them. Surprisingly enough, she is in a relationship with personal gym trainer Chris, who has supposedly managed to accept her promiscuous ways.
The film has a dreamy aesthetic, swinging in and out of focus with dito music and shuffled chronology. Chelsea waltzes through the scenes of her supposed life almost without touching the ground. She tells us candidly, as if we are following her, that she adapts to each of her clients, hiding her real self, to show only that which the clients want to see. But what we see, are ordinary men treating her in an ordinary way. Would anyone pay for having someone “fake caring” for you? Perhaps, but these are “normal” men with time on their hands, and not the cliché hotshot lawyers in need of a human fix between deals. The client meetings, which take up most of the film, are just them talking about money. All the time. The clients are talking recession or protective investment as her prostituting “business” is supposedly untouched. If you consider discussing money bad taste, this movie offers you no mercy.
As you watch all the financial banalities being exchanged, you just patiently wait till they finish talking. When they ARE finished, you realise that the movie is over. You never get to know Chelsea, why she is a prostitute at all. You never get to know Chris either. He is shown in a few side scenes selling his personal trainer services, suggesting a superficial parallel with Chelsea. So why does he accept her sordid life? Would it not have been interesting if he was a small town character who was fascinated by the big city and voyeuristically lived off her stories of the intimacy of others? Or perhaps someone who has had an endless stream of failed relationships, and finds comfort in her promiscuity, in her endlessly returning to him? As it stands, we can not sympathise with them because we do not know them. Worse still, I suspect that the main problem is that they are actually as empty as their conversation. This in turn hollows out all the relationships they are in, including their own.
In true American tradition, this is a film about sex which is all talk. None the less, it managed miraculously to scrape together an “R rating”, for some reason, to protect the American teenagers. Unfortunately, abroad we are not as lucky – our teens still risk to be exposed to this profound senseless boredom. We will just have to warn each other.