Writer: David Levien & Brian Koppelman
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Budget: $1 700 000 (estimated)
Gross: $614 851 (as of June 21st, 2009)
The Girlfriend Experience is a low-budget, semi-improvisational film directed, shot and edited by steven soderbergh and starring pornstar sasha grey as a high-price escort, chelsea. how could any film-lover not want to see this film? well, i sure wanted to and so i did and i gotta say i really liked it.
unlike one of soderbergh other forays into this type of film making, Full Frontal, this feels like a complete film and not just some kind of filmic experiment (i haven't seen Bubble). although filmed fast and on a small budget, this looks looks great. the natural lighting, the elegant colors and frames all work to create a high-class feel without the high-class budget - this is important because chelsea is an expensive escort with rich clients and expensive tastes and if the film looked cheap it might not have worked.
this film is splitting people down the middle. everything i read it seems that half the people really like it and the other half don't. i fall in line with the first group and for me that comes down to the experience of the film itself.
the films story isn't breaking any crazy new ground or anything like that. the "originality" of the piece comes in its acknowledgment of that fact and in its telling of the story without pretense or melodrama.
at under an hour and a half, the films length doesn't give it time for lots of pointless or obvious exposition. rather, what we get to know of chelsea comes from watching and listening to her and those around her as one would in real life. did i feel like i knew her well by the end of the film? no. but, i knew her a little better, and i understood her a little better.
grey plays chelsea with a kind of flat affect that could turn some people off, but what it also does is make those moments of character development that much more real and true to who she actually is. i recently watched the film Claire Dolan (which i will talk about much more on an upcoming show/post) about a high-dollar escort, and watching The Girlfriend Experience reminded me of that film a bit.
while both films might be described by some as character pieces i would use the term "character experiences". in both films it is less about knowing all about the women and their motivations and where they came from and more about just experiencing this moment in their lives - in the case of The Girlfriend Experience, we are talking five days.
chelsea is great at what she does and is all about giving her clients a real "girlfriend" experience -more than just a paid sexual moment and her clients appreciate that and usually come back for more. and how you feel about the film is also going to kind of depend on how you feel about the experience that grey and soderbergh create together.