Steven Soderbergh's latest film is about an upscale escort in New York and what happens in her life during the weeks leading up to the 2008 presidential election. This was a time when "financial crisis" was on the tip of everyone's tongue and it felt like at any moment the economy could fail.
The Girlfriend Experience uses this setting to maintain a level of the uncontrollable, a feeling that all is not in the hands of the people but instead is left to the Russian roulette wheel of the market.
The majority of the shots are stationary and often give us a sense of siting in a room with the characters or eves dropping from around a corner, heightening a sense of realism and helps us empathize for the protagonist Chelsea, or rather Christine, played by Sasha Grey.
Sasha Grey who is best known as a porn actress, single handedly drives this film in her feature film debut. She is stunning and delivers a performance that is just (for lack of a better word) fantastic.
Every scene feels so authentic from the dialogue, to the reactions, to the scenery that at many times you feel like you're watching a documentary.
The lack of a structured narrative will turn many off of this film, in fact there isn't much of a story at the core of the film yet it's completely engaging all the same. Many snippets of scenes from future or past events are played repeatedly to compliment a present scene. By the end you have the big picture letting you piece together the correct chronology on your own. The aesthetic is sterile and sharp, a look that would lend itself very well to a science fiction picture however here it works incredibly well. It gives us a sense of a very methodical lifestyle that's glossed over in a material existence.
The majority of the scenes are business pitches, not in the sense of an escort setting up appointments but rather people trying to make money wherever they can.
Try to count how many of the scenes are business dinners as people pitch ways for Chelsea to make more money, from advertising agents to sleazy internet forum board writers looking for a freebie.
We also spend time with Christine's boyfriend, Chris (played by the pretty Chris Santos) who is a personal trainer in the film and funny enough one in real life.
We follow him as he's trying to make money in a failing economy, desperately seeking a more comfortable way of life for himself.
The Girlfriend Experience is a film about the broken modern world, a world that runs on money that no one clearly has, yet we still make sure we get our excesses.
In this world we forget about dealing with others on a basic human level leaving us with an existence comprised mostly of false experiences meant to carry us over to the next false moment.
Highly recommended to anyone willing to take that plunge.