The Girlfriend Experience is typical of the type of low budget and almost experimental films that director Steven Soderbergh often likes to make between his bigger projects, such as Traffic, Erin Brockovich and the Ocean’s Eleven films. Focusing on Chelsea, a high-class escort who is trying to enhance her profile, The Girlfriend Experience is a film about transactions and commodities. Chelsea’s supportive personal trainer boyfriend is also trying to get more clients and as the film is set during the 2008 presidential elections, Chelsea’s various clients talk incessantly about the economic downturn.
The Girlfriend Experience relies heavily on improvised dialogue, which doesn’t always work as there are too many scenes where all the actors do is talk over the top of each other. The non-lineal narrative and lack of exposition also mean that it takes a while to figure out exactly what is going on and Soderbergh frustratingly overuses the technique of creating a sense of alienation and detachment by filming so many scenes as static wide shots. Nevertheless, The Girlfriend Experience is an overall interesting piece from Soderbergh and as Chelsea, pornography star Sasha Grey makes a curious feature film debut.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 337, 2009
© Thomas Caldwell, 2009