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Girlfriend Experience [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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Chelsea (adult film star Sasha Grey in her mainstream film debut), a $2,000 an hour Manhattan call girl offers more than sex to her clients, it's her companionship and conversation that provides her customers with the complete girlfriend experience. Chelsea thinks she has her life totally under control, but when you're in the business of meeting people, control can be easily manipulated.
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Perhaps it's because the lead actor is an ex-porn star who doesn't actually engage in any sex in the movie; after all, the part she plays doesn't require great acting skills but she is by no means bad.
The gist of the drama centres around her daily business as a high class call girl; she is independent, her clients are wealthy and although much of their small-talk concerns the financial crisis surely her position is insulated?
The action takes place on five random days across an undefined time period. In that time she works on promotional plans, meets a new client from Los Angeles, keeps an audio diary for an interviewer and meets an online reviewer calling himself “The Erotic Connoisseur”, who appears to offer an opportunity to advance her career on a more lucrative, international level.
The film is beautifully filmed, emphasising the affluent environment she inhabits and the narrow, rarefied company of rich men; there's a lot of subtlety in the way the film unfolds; it is intimate, but has a coldness about it and much of it has an improvised feel – the blurb on the box uses the word “mesmerising” and I think that is appropriate.
I accept the film won't appeal to everyone, but it has more substance than it's detractors have surmised.
The DVD presents the theatrical and alternative director's cut which differ little from each other; there is a short interview with Sasha Grey and she joins Soderbergh in a film commentary. There are no subtitles.
This is a film that, for the most part, focuses on the everyday life of a young woman (Sasha Grey) who works as a high class escort. We witness snippets of her goings-on with clients, for whom she provides a 'girlfriend experience' (that is, she behaves as if she's a lover to these men). In so doing, she finds herself being drawn into their lives - as her clients open up to her, chatting about their problems. Throughout, she's aiming to offer the best possible service - and is, ultimately, after making money and investing it wisely. Most of the clients are normal guys who simply want to pay to sleep with a beautiful woman. But there are a few who seek to use and abuse her ... and she has to live with this. Additionally, the film also focuses on her boyfriend, who works as a fitness instructor. He's more-or-less okay with what she does for a living - but does, on occasion, show jealously and anger.
The film is shot in such a way as to generate a sense of intimacy towards the central character. Note, while there is some nudity, there are no explicit sex scenes - and this is far from a porn movie. One might be inclined to feel empathy towards the main character - yet as the film develops this becomes difficult as we find that she's rather one-dimensional. And this is because, in order to provide a 'girlfriend experience', she's learnt to act out her life rather than live it in a genuinely meaningful way. In consequence, she doesn't really open up - or express herself. Rather she behaves as she thinks others want her to behave. As such, she's something of a lost soul ...
The movie is well directed, and one that presents an interesting character-driven story. But it's the acting - especially by Grey - that's stand out. Grey portrays the lead character in a highly realistic way. In so doing, she demonstrates a definite skill at acting (beyond her roles in adult films), and I'd certainly like to see her in more 'mainstream' movies.
If you're think of buying this simply because the lead is a star of porn films, and you think this movie might offer explicit content, I suggest you don't bother purchasing it. However, if you're after a nicely crafted film that explores an aspect of prostitution then I do recommend it. Similarly, I can also recommend Tag und Nacht and Maison Close - Season 1 [Blu-ray].
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