Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Girlfriend Experience


I watched The Girlfriend Experience this weekend, a 2009 film directed by Steven Soderbergh. It gained notoriety for featuring Sasha Grey in the lead role, as a high-end escort in New York City. Ms. Grey's other career is described quite eloquently here, in Los Angeles Magazine: The teenager & the porn star.

This was a film I was looking forward to. Didn't know what to expect - an inside look at the world of call girls? One took down Eliot Spitzer, after all. Ironic isn't it, how the rules in this industry work...I mean, they'll make out with your dick, but not with you. Unless they offer the titular girlfriend experience, of course. Anyways, I come away from this film with a lot of questions. A lot of confusion. Maybe that's the point, but I think a lot of it is the result of a clumsy screenplay, clumsy cinematography, clumsy editing, and at times, clumsy acting. There is just no focus, no story, no point.

This was shot in 16 days, using a RedOne camera. It's not about how inexpensive, how budget the film was - the tools were more than adequate. At times, it was the composition of the shots that detracted from the actual scene. To his credit, Soderbergh makes Ms. Grey appear much older and glamorous than she really is - many shots of her gorgeous long dark hair. As befitting an escort, she's dressed well - why is it that she still doesn't convey authenticity to the role? After all, escorts have to be what the clients want, right? Then how come Ms. Grey can't carry her wardrobe with any level of sophistication? Even the beautiful lingerie looks awkward on her, as if she was just handed a silk thong and told to floss. Ms. Grey looks bored at times and indifferent in others, only momentarily rousing herself out of boredom to deliver a few tear-streaked lines - sadly, not enough to make her character any more likeable or relatable.

Imagery (and acting) aside, the screenplay or the editing don't do the film any favours. Randomly cut scenes, with no narrative, no flow - I'm caught scratching my head as to why some were included. Each scene is non-chronological, which is fine - the problem is, they are incapable of telling a story either alone, or pieced together. What is the message the screenwriter's trying to send? Is the story about the struggle of an escort to survive and find success in the business? Is it about the seedy side of escorting (the escort reviewer who tries to sleep with her for a positive review)? Or is it about the parallels between being a call girl and a personal trainer, trying to get the most money out of your clients? How about the difficulties of maintaining a normal relationship in this line of work? And why does she recap each client encounter (what she was wearing, where they ate, what they talked about, how they spent the night)?

There is no story. Period. Our high-end escort is not a hooker with a heart of gold (à la Pretty Woman). Even though the film devotes at least 20 minutes to scenes of the guys flying to Las Vegas for the weekend, we don't know if there is a break up. And what about the client she agrees to spend the weekend with? No resolution there. The reporter who interviews her? Nope. So what are we left with? At least Sasha Grey looks pretty. I googled for other movie reviews. This is what one commenter says about Ms. Grey:

Grey is a new breed of porn performer that are sometimes referred to as "uberwhores". Think of the most extreme and degrading sexual act that you can imagine and she has outdone it. And yes, it does include that.

I won't protest, I won't lie...I googled her. No, not for her professional work. She's done interviews for Rolling Stone, and the obligatory pre-release promotional tours. The commenter above was spot on. Ms. Grey specializes in the kind of sexual acts that beg the question - what kind of people are these films marketed to? You'd have to be a real deviant to enjoy watching these films, and not just feel sick. I dare you to read the article I linked above and not feel a bit nauseous. And she's so young. Ms. Grey's work goes far beyond any logic, any sense of entertainment. No, her work is extraordinarily violent, degrading, and dangerous. And for her to somehow characterize what she's doing as feminist...the height of naivety, no? A girl who freely performs inconceivably disgusting sexual acts with complete strangers, somehow considers herself in full control? I'm being completely judgemental, but when the sex you have is so rough that you begin suffering from 'anal warts', maybe it's time to rethink your posture. On film, and otherwise.


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