The Girlfriend Experience

>> Sunday, December 6, 2009

I find it interesting that this movie is rated R, given that there is no sex in it. Some brief nudity, yes, but not closeup. I suppose it's rated R for "adult situations" or something like that.

Anyhow. I got interested in seeing this last spring when it came out. Of course, it didn't play near here. I don't think it even played in SLC. Naturally, I put it in my queue after listening to a Salon.com interview by Andrew O'Hehir with Steven Soderberg. At least, I think it was Soderberg. It might have been Sasha Grey, the porn star who plays the lead role in this.

The interview discussed "The Girlfriend Experience" in general terms, which is not the movie but people paying escorts for dates that simulate having a girlfriend because they don't have the time or wherewithal for dating or actual relationships. I remember hearing about that and thinking, "Wow. Lots of people really hate dating!" It's harder out there than most people admit. Of course, there are people, usually guys, who do this and still have girlfriends, wives or families as the film depicts.

My interest kind of waffled during the first half. Some of the scenes were interspersed such as this Vegas trip that Christine's (played by Sasha Grey) boyfriend (played by Chris Santos) was taking and his regular work as a personal trainer. I couldn't tell at what point in time they had taken place. Was this Vegas trip before the boyfriend was selling his clothing line to a store or after? Or was it during? Eventually I could tell what went where by the last third of the movie.

I can understand why scenes were split up. There isn't much of a plot. It has a documentary-type feel to it. It's Christine going about her day job, minus the sex parts, and seeing how it affected both her and her boyfriend's personal lives. Showing what happened in a purely linear format would remove the layers from it, and there are some very subtle layers.

As Roger Ebert noted:

We listen to them talking. We watch them talking. Most of them want to talk about what she does for a living. There is the polite fiction that she is talking about other men, hypothetical men, and not the one she is with. They like to give her advice about how to invest her money, and who to vote for (the story takes place during the 2008 campaign). Each one has some reason for thinking he is somehow special. Set during the run-up to the stock market crash, it shows both sides more interested in investing than sex.

[...]

You wonder how a person could look another in the eye and conceal everything about themselves. But the financial traders who are her clients do it every day. Their business is not money, but making their clients feel better about themselves.

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