The Girlfriend Experience Movie Review

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Soderbergh is in experimental mode with this fractured relationship drama. It's packed with clever touches and sharp observations, but is too dry and repetitive to make us care about the characters.

Chelsea (Grey) is a high-priced call girl in New York, quietly going about her job while her boyfriend Chris (Santos) works as a trainer in an upscale gym.

Both are obsessed with growing their businesses, which causes problems in their otherwise warm, relaxed relationship. This quest for money is also omnipresent in their wealthy clients, and everyone is nervous about the economic slump and imminent 2008 US presidential election. And for Chelsea and Chris, things come to a head when Chelsea starts to fall for a client (Levien).

Shot on handheld hi-def with mostly non-actors, the film has an earthy street-level feel that's belied by the slick widescreen imagery. It's also edited in a purring, teasing fashion that presents scenes and snippets out of sequence. Things do resolve into focus in the end, but the challenging structure undermines any emotional involvement and leaves us feeling as cold as the characters themselves.

Everything about this film screams money, from the luxurious settings to the sleek fashions. Most of the dialog is about investments, business opportunities and living the high life. And this empty approach to life is effectively portrayed through the dead eyes of characters who are just as much consumers as commodities. Both Chelsea and Chris have sold themselves to the highest bidders, and the film's real tragic centre is the fact that, even when they're alone together, they can only generate a semblance of an emotional life.

The side characters aren't much better, including a weasely journalist (Jacobson) interviewing Chelsea and a hilariously sleazy "erotic connoisseur" (Kenny) who wants to audition her for a special job. Meanwhile, Chris is invited to spend a weekend in Vegas with a client (Zizzo) and his chucklehead pals, and is unprepared for the reaction when he brazenly asks his boss (Holt) for a pay rise. In the end, these people are far too shallow to engage with, and it's exactly this fact that makes the film an important document of a time and place.

Cast & Crew

Starring : , , , Mark Jacobson, Glenn Kenny, Peter Zizzo, Christina Nadeau, William Holt

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The Girlfriend Experience Rating

" Good "

Rating: 15, 2009

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