Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Girlfriend Experience - Dir. Steven Soderbergh

While I had wanted to see this movie for over a year, I had mixed feelings going into it. For one, I was unconvinced of Steven Soderbergh's talents as a director. I found Erin Brockovich to be overrated. I found Traffic to be overrated, but in time I began to understand some of its appeal. I consider the Oceans movies to be cashout opportunities, though not without their own (quite unique, I think) niche. I never saw The Good German but I have heard it is terrible. I have never seen Solaris or The Limey, but I have been meaning to. The Informant! was enjoyable, but no other comment on that now.

Second, Sasha Grey is (was?) a porn star. And she is younger than me, and way more fucking rich. And she manages to land her own film, basically, with Steven Soderbergh. So I was jealous, and suspicious of her talents as a "real actress."

Despite his more mainstream occupations, Soderbergh also directed Bubble and Che, (neither of which I've seen) which are not the most obvious choices for a director who can pretty much guarantee a $100 million blockbuster when he so chooses. Furthermore, he is responsible for sex, lies, and videotape, which might not be one of the best movies ever, but certainly helped to launch a genre which has been responsible for some of the best movies over the last three decades. And his cameo in Waking Life was cool. So I respect him, and I wanted to see this movie, but I was still skeptical.

Long story short, skepticism erased. This movie is hilarious, and supposedly sad, but I don't think the desperation it is seemingly meant to portray ever comes across. Here is the plot: Chelsea is an escort. She meets rich men and listens to them talk and goes out to dinner with them and sleeps with them. But she has a real boyfriend, Chris, who is a personal trainer. There is a weird time-zone for this movie where it keeps flipping back and forth to a plane trip Chris takes with one of his clients on a private jet party to Las Vegas. And there are random sub-plots where Chelsea might go to Dubai as part of a prostitution vacation, or sleep with internet messageboard administrators to get a good review and get more business.

In general, the movie is slow, quiet, talkative, and mundane. However, its greatest asset is its timing. It takes place near the November 2008 elections. There are references to the $700 billion bailout and the word "maverick" in debates and Man on Wire. Sometimes Chelsea writes journal entries about her "dates," and one of them is a dinner at Nobu, which I found funny for personal reasons.

The last shot in the movie kind of totally blew me away. And on the whole I found it surprisingly tasteful. I thought the script was good, the dialogue was very realistic, and I laughed out loud several times. Still, not for the faint of heart due to its subject matter. Also I don't think it's a very responsible film in the way I don't think "Mad Men" is a very responsible TV-show. I think they encourage bad behavior.

This film probably won't change your life, but it certainly made me think, and it certainly inspired me at moments. Otherwise I would not be blogging at 1:26 in the morning after drinking, oh, maybe 50 oz of beer. Perhaps there is more I could say about it, or more that I thought I wanted to say about it (i.e. my favorite part, the beginning of a misogynistic monologue at a bar, or alternately, a snippet of conversation about the insufficiencies of using a vaporizer) while I was watching it, but it doesn't matter. You'll either be aware of this film or not, and if you are aware of it, you should take a chance on it. Because while it may not be for everyone, it is exactly the type of film I appreciate, because it attempts to portray reality without Hollywoodization. I know that is not a word but you know what I mean.

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