Directors' Showcase / European premiere

The Girlfriend Experience

  • Steven Soderbergh /
  • USA /
  • 2009 /
  • 77 mins

Sasha Grey, Chris Santos, Philip Eytan, Glenn Kenny, Timothy Davis, David Levien, Mark Jacobson / Fiction / English

Sex and the credit crunch, as interpreted by one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers – and one of its most notorious sex stars.

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh won an Oscar® for Best Director for his 2000 ensemble drama Traffic. He had earlier gained an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Screenplay for sex, lies, and videotape, which marked his directorial feature debut; the film also won the Palme d’Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. His directing credits include The Informant, Che, Ocean’s Thirteen, The Good German, Bubble, Ocean’s Twelve, Solaris, Ocean’s Eleven, Gray’s Anatomy, King of the Hill and Kafka. Soderbergh has also produced or executive produced a wide range of features

2009 Archive

Image from The Girlfriend Experience

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  • #1 Mike Hall / Friday 26 June, 2009 / 00:32 GMT

    Whilst it would be easy to dismiss the film's main protagonist Chelsea as a spoilt, shallow and emotionally-retarded starlet, this would be disrespectful to the skill with which Soderburgh sets about his complex deconstruction.

    After gratifying a stream of overweight execs, who witter on about the financial downturn, Chelsea falls for the first piece of vaguely-eye-candy who responds to her own emotional seepage. It's as if she's so busy trying to be what she thinks her customers want that she's lost all sense of her own self, and desperately grabs onto someone who reflects who she is back to her. It's hard to feel much compassion when said hunk promptly leaves her high and dry in the middle of designer nowhere, after she has summarily dumped her equally vacuous, preening and self-promoting personal fitness boyfriend. At least they deserve one another - these obnoxious creations are a by-product of a society that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    And boy, does her beauty come at a cost – in her warped world, it seems that every man will try any ruse to lure her between the sheets. Even the interviewing journalist that pops up sporadically is portrayed in this way, until you realise that actually, he’s just the vehicle for her metaphorical exposure, as she attempts feeble side-steps to avoid his incisive questioning.

    With its' semi-documentary style and chopped up chronology, it's worth the effort it takes to keep up. Chelsea certainly has a stunning body, to the extent that one of her customers orgasms just by looking at her in her underwear. But the irony is that by this stage, any initial attraction the viewer may have for her has been stripped away, as it becomes increasingly obvious that her detached and professional air is simply a mask to hide the nothingness within. Ultimately, Soderbergh leaves you with the impression that she's the real-life equivalent of a plastic doll. An interesting and provocative watch; 8/10.
  • #2 Paul Laird / Saturday 27 June, 2009 / 23:08 GMT

    It's all about Sasha really.

    The move from "adult" films into adult films is not one that many, if any, people have made...certainly not successfully. When one considers the depravities to which Hollywood turns a blind eye that is a situation that is difficult to work out...the answer may well lie in Sasha Greys performance here.

    While she is far from being wooden there is something about her that seems...flat. Perhaps the years of group sex, double-penetration, bukake and the rest have taken their toll on her. She appeared to be little more than a shell here...a remarkable looking shell, a perfectly formed shell but a shell nonetheless.

    It may be a cliche but she was dead behind the eyes.

    Maybe, of course, this was all part of the performance...if it was then she is a finer actress than I am prepared to give her credit for.

    The story is simple and not particularly interesting; escort girl escorts, falls for client, is let down and then carries on escorting. Despite this flimsy premise and Soderberghs increasingly desperate attempts to shoe-horn in his recession message into nearly every scene the film is interesting enough and Greys performance diverting enough to keep you happy.

    Meaningless sexual encounters, at the risk of sounding like some hoary old born again preacher, come at a price...they corrode the soul; at least that's how it looks when you peer into the eyes of a woman who has made a career out of exactly those sorts of encounters. That said, if anyone fancies...I'm joking.

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