DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

The Girlfriend Experience - DVD Review


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</script></div>{/googleAds}When Steven Soderbergh is not too busy directing George Clooney or a frat pack led by George Clooney, he must be in the middle of an intricate work of art. So much so, this is art on the other side of the spectrum, a realm too rare to be noticed by fans of the flamboyant Ocean's trilogy.

Set during the very current and very realistic financial crisis, the plot for the most part revolves around the true nature of the crisis and its effects on upper working-class people. Book marking the film in time and space, Soderbergh even boldly debates the outcome of a 700 billion stimulus plan as strategized by President Barak Obama. But as financial stress continues to take its toll before the stimulus nurtures any recovery, the needs of sexually active men can never be stifled. This is where Chelsea (Sasha Grey) comes in. She isn't just a regular street walker paid to blow off some steam, but an escort of the highest caliber. Much more than that, Chelsea is a high profile, chauffeur driven escort offering a high level of companionship where fine dinning, intellectual conversations and emotional reciprocation plays a major part in her business, rather than just consensual sex at a pre-determined price. Metaphorically, it is like evaluating the difference between paying for a room at a classy hotel for one night or renting a fully furnished apartment for a month. As the plot progresses, Chelsea runs her independent business in total control. But things start to get complicated when she finds herself mixed up in a possessive ‘real' relationship, while caught between her ambitions of being the best in the business and allowing the prospect of sleazy clients pimp her product to cities less affected by the recession, namely Dubai (UAE).


The Girlfriend ExperienceAlthough critically controversial for various reasons, this is a director's film through and through and Soderbergh has his name written all over it with his unmistakable handy work etched into all aspects of the movie. With a plot severely depending on dialogue, the only setback may be in the script that seems improvised at times. But even that appears innovative when characters appear natural and very believable. Another signature trade mark is his panning of plot segments back and forth like setting pieces of a puzzle into place. This is done by narrating a day in the life of a prostitute as described by Chelsea in her journal. At times the approach is from a documentary styled interview between Chelsea and prospective clients while simultaneously building up insight into her personality. This is also Soderbergh's crossover into digital filming, so to speak. As such, cinematography is dynamic yet superb. Intimate moments are sometimes intentionally out of focus, at other times fully zoomed in with a maximum lens aperture but using ambient lighting, again a key characteristic of the emerging digital era. Coming to the topic of sex, which also happens to be the main topic of discussion, the act itself is never shown but a more subtle approach is given to brief nudity, including a suggestively framed full frontal. Soderbergh's skills aside, the jewel in the crown is Sasha Grey's debut into mainstream Hollywood. I say ‘debut' not because this is her first lead role, but because of her controversial background in hard core porn. The way I see it, if Ms Grey can deliver an above average performance as a character with all her clothes on, then there is no need in bringing up her past. Besides her stunning looks, she also possesses an uncanny way of flirting with the camera and ultimately engages the viewer. This is called on-screen charisma, and she has a lot of it. ‘Three times a charm', perhaps director Michael Bay may have a real winner with the proposed Transformers 3 if he can somehow have Sasha Grey replace Megan Fox; food for thought, Mr. Bay.

Back to Soderbergh, given his multi award winning Traffic and recent biopic Che: Part 1&2, I wouldn't call this his masterpiece, but it still is a definitive piece of art that will give Woody Allen a run for his money. And with a tagline that says â"See it with someone you ****", perception of art has potentially endless possibilities.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
4 stars
1 Star
DVD Experience
1 Star

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: Spanish
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary; unrated alternate cut of the film; making-of featurette.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Feature-length commentary track with Steven Soderbergh and Sasha Gray who discuss the making of the movie.

Featurettes

  • HDNET: A Look at The Girlfriend Experience

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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