Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” sanitizes the judgment of the prostitution. But out here it is not nearly prostitution or as the title suggests, it is the package without the strings. The girl (Sasha Grey) and the guy are in this classy restaurant talking about a movie. I know what the film they are talking about. It is a documentary I loved and they discuss how cleanly it was put forth, edited and when the phenomenon the people in that film talk about happens, it is ethereal. Before she journals her routine with the client, I knew they were talking about “Man on Wire”. This is Chelsea, the call girl Soderbergh focuses on his film.
Told in a nonlinear form, Soderbergh goes to the way he experimented in his earlier films as “sex, lies, and videotape.” The girl in the film carries conversation with her clients in a manner which makes them pour out their day to day life. She listens to the complaints of a man about his friend asking for money and asks suggestions of what to do in the current economic times. The film has a backdrop of the 2008 Presidential Election where the clients voice their opinion but we do not know about hers till the end. But may be she is saying she voted for this person to comfort the man she is going to provide the service.
She is being interviewed by a journalist who walks on the line with the skill of slicing a cut into this icy layer of woman. She is close to the journalist and she pretends with her clients. When we see her day, there is another young man working as a personal trainer in a gym. This is Chris (Chris Santos) and he is marketing in these tough times of scheduling more sessions with him. He is good at his job and one of his clients plans for Las Vegas trip. Of course the film collages back and forth of what happened, happens and is happening. It does not comes off as a show off on what they can do with this form of presentation rather it is the right way. Despite the style which also is a form of documentary into this young girl’s livelihood, it comes off with a story in between.
It is later learned that Chris is the boyfriend of Christine, the real name of Chelsea. The film goes on how clean the work she does. Nobody is a jerk and everybody is polite, respectful and in that time of her service, treats her something in the middle in between a girlfriend and a respectful talented employee. In this whole process of full package of her job, she competes, thrives to be the best and the business of the escort services as such.
She meets web designers to get her webpage properly designed and requests for techniques to get it come first in the search results. She narrates her experience which comes as more of an attempt to write a book. She sketches her outfit, the person she met and the things they talked. In between she mentions that they had sex which never happens on screen. She kisses her clients, passionately and with an intimate affection but a noticeable distance. Sasha Grey’s appearance marks a great deal to that character. She has a face cut which has a look shunning the real her behind it. The journalist tries hard to get that side out but as relentless he is, she does it day to day with her clients. Yet the interview catches her when she is dealing with a personal crisis, which is more surprising for an educated and informed girl as her.
Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” is a film of its own and lives in the kind he has defined himself for. Much has been said about the selection of the protagonist for the film, Sasha Grey a porn star but it is not for publicity and I would assume letting her project more on the mask she puts upon in front of the camera in her adult films. She fits the role and Chris Santos as her boyfriend has a parallel in his life style to hers.
The film is a unique experience where we see the profession of a regular activity in a more agreed upon manner than the darkness that environment has been portrayed. True that the bad experience Chelsea goes through are not put upon except for one though in the film. The film as much as realistic it begins and see Chelsea as a serious person more professional than any regular working class person decides something illogical in her personal life. It seems odd and does not go with the girl the audience see her with the clients but again, that is not Christine.