What: The Girlfriend Experience
Where: My apartment
When: October 23, 2009
Why: Steven Soderbergh has been one of my favorite directors since Out of Sight in 1998. I will see anything he does, mostly because he dares to take chances. Mixing big-budget extravaganzas like the Ocean’s series, pet projects like Che and tiny little movies like Bubble, Soderbergh cannot be confined to a single genre or method of filmmaking.
The Girlfriend Experience, much like Bubble, was conceived as a cheap, quick, casual picture. Most of the cast are not actors in the traditional sense, and Girlfriend resembles bubble in that way. It also looks and feels a lot like the mumblecore movement, small, talky pictures that are designed to look like (and often actually are) mostly improvised, naturalistic stories. These are not movies made by established directors; on the contrary, those who prefer this style tend to stay in it.
Not Sodebergh. he casts porn star Sasha Grey in the lead role of Chelsea, a call girl trying to juggle her career, a boyfriend, and a complicated sense of self-worth. Soderbergh, as is his signature, plays with time and juxtaposes audio with visuals that may or may not eventually synchronize. These tricks aid a story that might not have been as intriguing otherwise, for the twists and turns are only available with the story not playing out in chronology.
At 75 minutes, the pace of the picture makes it seem much longer, but any boredom I might have endured was gone by the third act, when Chelsea’s plight became more apparent. The resolution to the film, if it could be called that, comes unexpectedly and abruptly, leaving on just the right note. The Girlfriend Experience is not a great movie, but it’s a really good one all the same. In any other hands this story wouldn’t even work for a scene, but Soderbergh keeps things interesting for the the entire film.