Monday, May 25, 2009

The Girlfriend Experience (2009)

Last night I sat down and watched the latest film from Steven Soderbergh, he is certainly a versatile director and this effort is one of his most intriguing works to date.

We are taken on a journey with Chelsea, an elite New York escort who offers the ultimate girlfriend experience. This does not mean sex, although that is on offer; rather it involves an evening of dinner, companionship and talking. The interesting thing is that most of her clients are more interested in talking about her, her profession and giving her advice about investments and politics. For a film that is essentially about prostitution there is little sex or nudity to be had, but the type of prostitution we experience is that of the mind. We are given an insight into the daily life of a high class escort and the varying types of client she experiences. Chelsea has been in a committed relationship for over a year, her partner is aware of her profession and they have rules about what can and can't be done, she keeps a diary told in the form of narration for the audience, but speaks little of her clients and their interaction to her partner. It is very interesting to watch her mannerism and expression when with her boyfriend as opposed to a client. Chelsea is played by porn star Sasha Grey in one of her first main stream roles, she is a beautiful 21 year old and knows it. As one of her clients in the film points out, if she wasn't beautiful, she wouldn't be able to do what she does and charge the prices she does for doing it.

The film is fascinated with its main character and the framing is simply beautiful and quite clever in its portrayal of her. It is shot using high definition cameras and it is presented in a cinema scope ratio of 2.35:1 with every inch of the image onscreen carefully planned out. We are given over the shoulder or long shots of her with her clients, gradually creeping in closer for her more personal meetings or day to day activities. This allows us to keep our distance as third party observers to the events as they unfold. It is in no way shot as a documentary and short of a few car ride sequences the camera rarely appears to be hand held. The film is not told in any form of chronology, which may confuse or deter some viewers, but I found the flow quite easy to follow and quite melodic.

The film uses music sparingly with some ambient score to join scenes or montages. There is also some use of on screen source music from various buskers around New York.

I really enjoyed watching The Girlfriend Experience, I was fascinated by the cinematography and staging used. The acting was good, with strong and realistic performances from both Sasha and her clients. I will be very interested to see what Steven Soderbergh's next film will be.

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