When I walked into The Girlfriend Experience I was not expecting it to be anything like what it is. This makes reviewing the movie particularly difficult.
The Girlfriend Experience is a pseudo-documentary about an escort girl and her clients. It argues that such relationships only work because of the money factor; it also claims that loneliness is a major issue in the lives of both the costumer and the escort girl. But it might as well be advocating the opposite point. Like human nature The Girlfriend Experience has many sides to it; its editing is purposely choppy, jumping back and forth in time and making it quite difficult to follow; like human nature The Girlfriend Experience is very hard to define.
In the film we follow a girl called Chelsea (Sacha Grey), her clients, and her boyfriend. Chelsea provides her clients with a sexy date, with someone to listen to them, with someone to caress them, with someone who will pretend to be interested in their everyday boring lives, and with sex. Strangely enough most of her clients seem least interested in the latter part, there aren’t any hot sex scenes in the whole film. These men seem much more interested in the date aspect of the deal. This drives Chelsea insane; to counter it she keeps a journal and a boyfriend. The journal allows her to express her deeper feelings; the boyfriend gives her exactly what her clients want from her: someone to listen when she wants to talk about her everyday boring life.
Like most films by Steven Soderbergh, The Girlfriend Experience flows naturally despite its irregular editing. Everything seems natural as if it was an actual documentary or a very well made reality show (not the ones you see on MTV). This, in a way, gives a deep sense of realism. Most impressive however is newcomer Sacha Grey.
Before working on this film, Grey has worked in over 161 porn movies, manages her own agency for such actresses and website. Impressively, unlike most people in that industry, Grey is capable of giving a believable and honest performance. Most of the time we see over the shoulder shots of her clients looking at her, rarely do we see her clients’ faces. Grey gives a subtle performance based in small gestures and nods; subtlety is not something people in her business are known for. This film will definitely be her vehicle to mainstream cinema (although arguably porn is very much mainstream already).
The Girlfriend Experience is a conversation starter. It is a movie that is hard to predict or understand, and therefore it probably gets better on the second watch.