It’s Serious

05/20/2009 4:00 AM |

The Girlfriend Experience
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Many movies are essentially a series of conversations, but The
Girlfriend Experience
really feels that way. Casting waifish, weird
porn star Sasha Grey as an oddly unalluring escort, and keeping a
deadening distance, Steven Soderbergh has made an impressively
off-putting film, evoking an amalgam of metal and plastic rather than
rustling fabric. But the accumulation of off-kilter fragments from a
young entrepreneur’s life mainly conveys that — surprise —
upscale prostitution is alienating, mercenary, catered to easily
mockable tools, and metaphorically handy.

Shot in trendoid New York restaurants and hotels that could be
alternate decks from Soderbergh’s Solaris remake, the film
forgoes sex for editing, slipping together scenes in the muffling,
sometimes sound/image-overlapping way that is part of the director’s
stylistic signature. Chelsea (Grey) listens to her clients prattle,
tends to her e-storefront, and bickers lethargically with her go-getter
trainer boyfriend (Chris Santos, grating but engaging).

But aside from her pedigree, Grey is only meta-interesting, and when
the whiff of Soderbergh’s gambit is so present, Che feels more
grounded. Thrown-together scenes of traders bullshitting on a jet, shot
as a blasted-out blur, were added after the financial crisis.
Soderbergh has probably achieved what he set out to do, but by the time
Grey is acting an argument scene partly obscured by a couch, attention
might wander from the director’s report on the zeitgeist.

Opens May 22