A blog about movies and filmmaking.

See it with someone you ****

In drama on December 10, 2009 at 2:49 am

There’s not many times – probably – that I’m going to be commenting on the specific media to which I watch movies. (Although, I’ve made mention in the past that I watch most of the movies I comment on either in the theater or via Netflix – on DVD or it’s Watch Instantly application.) But, I missed an opportunity to see THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE in theaters and just recently was able to watch it on DVD. The main reason I wanted to mention this, is the biggest plus to seeing the movie this way is the fact that there’s two movies on the disc – both being THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. One is the theatrical cut, with it’s stylization and non-linear time-jumping. The second is an alternative cut, which features a more straight-forward version of the movie.

The movie(s) focus on Chelsea (Sasha Grey), an escort, who we see meet a number of clients, a reporter, an online critic named “the Erotic Connoisseur”, and her live-in boyfriend. We get voiceover of Chelsea writing in her journals, that help her to remember the details of the various men that she meets; what she wore, what he wore, and what kind of intimate things they did. The boyfriend, Chris (played by Chris Santos), is a personal trainer who spends his screen-time seemingly trying to better his situation; either trying to get clients to buy more sessions in advance, or talking to different gyms and what they offer. And actually the biggest difference between the two cuts of the movie, have to do with Chris’ segment of the movie. In the theatrical version, there’s a lot of cross-cutting with Chris on a plane going to Las Vegas, with a group of guys who comment on women, money, politics, etc.

There are definitely some things that make this movie timely – if already kind of dated – relating to “The Bailout”, and “Maverick”. Fortunately, the whole bad economy stuff is still relevant, and considering the people on-screen – seemingly, mostly all Republican, Pro-John McCain, and complaining that they’re not getting as much money as in years prior – as they sit in a luxurious New York City high-rise. Which, y’know, being a poor, not-too-successful artist, I have immediate issues relating to. The other major theme of the movie, which is actually present right in the title of the movie; is how real are these “experience”‘s, or for that matter how real are “real relationships”? You can be perfectly open with someone paying you – or being paid for – to spend time, and pretend to have interest in you; or you can commit yourself for years to someone, not really know them or understand – or even care about – things that the other person is interested in. Is it, this movie I mean, a cynical look at love or just a study of a woman and what she goes through in her daily life; job, boyfriend, feigning interest in others?

Steven Soderbergh – who I have loved as many of his movies as I don’t really care for – here gives us probably one of his most beautifully made movies. (Right up there with OUT OF SIGHT.) It also falls more into the category of experimental movies like his previous movies BUBBLE and 1995’s UNDERNEATH (it’s all split diopter shots, and lens gels). And I have to say that for the look, and how interesting the main character of Chelsea is, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE doesn’t really work for me. It’s not the non-linear storytelling, although it does tend to get a little more muddied up than it probably ought to be. But, the alternate cut, which is more linear, a little less expository (we actually see most of an event that Chelsea only described in the theatrical version) also feels less brave. But, there are definite stylistic decisions that are made that really popped me out of the movie – the main one I can think of being when Chelsea and her boyfriend are in a bar, after one of her bad days and their entire scene is played with the camera focussing on the background. So, we can clearly see a woman in the middle of the bar who is staring right at the camera, and then when Chris goes up to the bar to refill their drinks, the camera rack-focusses onto Chelsea all alone (which, then makes sense).

The writers of the screenplay  – Brian Koppelman and David Levien – might not be the problem, as I believe most of the movie to be more improvish, and set around minor real conversations that the characters have. So, maybe it’s the performances. Sasha Grey, who yes, we all know is a real life porn star, is fairly interesting in this role. Not because of the common-ground we assume a porn star must share with an escort, but because of how she presents herself. I can imagine that a woman like this, really would be shut off to letting people in, when your job is to be so many people, to so many people. I know I feel that way, and I don’t really talk to anyone. So, she’s engaging. Maybe it’s in the supporting cast – who are much less developed, and al kind of blend together in that generic “idealized hot guy” or rich prick, sort of way. The only man who really stands out, is the Erotic Connoisseur – played by Glenn Kenny, who is in fact not a critic writing about escorts in the real world, but a film critic. We can tell from the first time we hear his voice on the phone, that he’s a real slime-ball, and it’s even more reinforced when we actually meet him. But, other than this man, there’s no one really in the movie to grasp onto, or care about – other than the closed off, guarded woman that the camera follows around.

So, overall I’d agree that this is an interesting movie that people should see. I don’t think it’s that great other than giving us a look at Sasha Grey, and hoping that she’ll maybe do more features. It’s also currently available to watch on Netflix Watch Instantly – although, I recommend getting the DVD if only for the commentary between Soderbergh and Grey, on the theatrical cut. Soderbergh, almost always has something interesting to say on these things, and this one is no different. Plus, on the DVD, you’ll get to see both versions of the movie, if you so desire. And as the poster says, “See it with Someone you ****”.


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