Tuesday, 30 June 2009
The Girlfriend Experience - Review
Steven Soderbergh is who I'd like to consider to be a talented bloke. Never one to shy away from making cutting edge, classy, sophisticated and ultimately ambitious films, from Oscar heavyweights such as sex, lies, and videotape (always typed in lower case for some reason..) and 2000's biopic Erin Brockovich to all star ensembles of the Ocean's Trilogy and the wonderful Traffic. Now and again however Mr Soderbergh likes to challenge himself and his audience to something a bit more left field, having already presented film audiences to the colossal four hour two part film on the infamous Che Guevara this year his next release is a significantly more intimate and personal piece in the form of The Girlfriend Experience which, is already having people talking with the controversial move of having a well established adult film star in the leading role (*cough* Um...so I'm told...), Sasha Grey.
Set against a very current affair backdrop of the 2008 U.S.A Presidential election and the much talked about current economic crisis, the story was a bit of a mish mash affair in which I did not actually have any real idea what was happening for the first 20 minutes, consisting of a series of disjointed moments in which a high class escort girl named Chelsea (Grey) is interacting with her clients, a journalist and bizarrely her real life boyfriend. Unfortunately for Miss Grey because of her "other" day job she will of course be the talking point of this film regardless if she actually performs well or not, and some people will ultimately choose to see the film or not purely on that reason alone. Upon watching the film I would not go as far as to say she was terrible, but she never once looked comfortable the entire time, as if the thought of actually having to properly act was just too frightening to contemplate, and for this she came across far more timid than her character was possibly suppose to be which, to be honest is actually a real shame because in those very brief moments when she did let her guard down and just let it flow she came across as a potentially capable actress, especially in one stand out scene when she was having a heated argument with her boyfriend Chris (Chris Santos) it felt more real than anything that came out of Megan Fox's mouth in the entire Transformers sequel. Another aspect of the film I found interesting was Chelsea's conversations with the journalist character (whose name escapes me) where it developed more into a psychological discussion into why one person would get involved in such a business and the emotional demands that might have on their personal life outside of their work.
Stripped down to the bare bones with no real soundtrack and using the natural sounds of the city, the director makes the movie as a sort of mockumentary, with a fly on the wall point of view in which the audience never really gets a chance to properly connect and interact with the characters within the film but rather observe them within their real life (albeit slightly bizarre) situations. For such a really low budget movie I must commend Sorderbergh for how elegant the film actually looked, using state of the art RedOne digital cameras which is surely food for thought with future films in the industry. However ultimately the whole film felt a bit flat, having countless chances to make TGE edgy and controversial (outside of the leading lady choice) to get the audiences talking when in fact it felt at times direction less, slow moving and extremely bland. For a film about a call-girl there was barely any mention of intercourse, with all her clients seemingly hiring this lady to just "talk", surely a shrink would be cheaper? It nearly played out like an episode of Sex In The City minus the sex.
With minimising his budget, Soderbergh displays that with enough talent and know-how in the industry it is clearly possible in this day and age to make a film look visually stunning without the use of glossy post-production and special effects. Overall in a production sense there is very little wrong with this film it's just a shame however that the characters and the story for the most part never felt as real as the settings the director put them in. Miss Grey will no doubt always have her "other" day job to fall back on if she is cast out of her short lived stint amongst the Hollywood fraternity nevertheless I actually think if she keeps trying there is a decent actress buried somewhere in there, possibly overwhelmed first time round by her first experience working with an established mainstream director. The tag line for this film, you may have noticed in the poster above is "see it with someone you ****", you might as well because you ain't going to get any action watching this movie. Interesting concept but the execution wasn't entirely there.
See this if you liked...
Sordenbergh's superior film about sexual nature which earned him an Oscar and the Palm d'Or at Cannes in 1989, sex, lies and videotape.