After months of anticipation, we finally found ourselves at a screening of Steven Soderbergh‘s “The Girlfriend Experience” (aka that movie starring Sasha Grey). And we’re pleased to say that we really enjoyed it.
Much has been, and will be, made of this movie, largely due to the fact that Sasha Grey is, yes, a pornstar—and, more importantly, a pornstar who a) has the leading role in a movie, and b) is in a movie that isn’t a horror, comedy, or a horror/comedy. But since we’ve spilled enough ink discussing the importance of this film, and what it all means, we’ll spare you the analysis and just tell you what we thought of the film.
First off: for those of you harboring fears that Sasha Grey can’t act, and won’t be able to carry the film—fear not. Though we wouldn’t necessarily say that Sasha deserves an Academy Award (or that she should—ha!—quit her day job), she plays the part of Chelsea—a coolheaded, withdrawn callgirl—with skill and aplomb, bringing her complicated, sometimes confused, character to life with a real grace. We’re not sure if this is a testament to Sasha’s potential as an actress, or if she was simply well cast in this role, but either way, she’s a strong, compelling part of the film.
We were also impressed by the film’s treatment of the world of the high class escort. It’s a hard topic to approach with a balanced view—filmmakers often run the risk of appearing to glorify the industry, or to paint it as a world of shattered, abused women who are trapped in a job they can’t escape. “The Girlfriend Experience” does neither: Chelsea is portrayed as a smart young woman who entered the industry for specific reasons (for financial independence and freedom from her parents), makes a good living doing work she largely enjoys, and is a smart businesswoman (scenes of her keeping track of the details of her appointments, working on her website and promotion, and discussing investment opportunities all round out the film). But at the same time, it’s clear that she has to battle some negative aspects of her career: dips in business during the economic downturn, loyal clients who cease booking her, the balance between her clients and her live-in boyfriend, and, of course, the threat of a bad review damaging her reputation.
But “The Girlfriend Experience” succeeds largely because it is not simply a movie about a call girl, or a tale of the escorting business: while Chelsea’s career is clearly a central part of the film, it is, far more, a film about the fears and insecurities brought to life by the economic downturn, and how they manage to throw things off balance and set us on an unlikely, unexpected, path. And that, above all, may be the most refreshing thing about the film: that it manages to treat Chelsea as an actual person, and not as a repository for our feelings about sex work.
For those of you lucky enough to have secured tickets to this week’s screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, feel free to check back in to this post and let us know your feelings on the film. For the rest of you—”The Girlfriend Experience” debuts May 22. Mark your calendars, and make sure not to miss it.