The Girlfriend Experience

The Girlfriend Experience is my favorite movie of 2009. Hands down. Steven Soderbergh is a cinematic genius. I fell in love with this film before the opening credits were done. No dialogue had been spoken and in fact, most of the first few minutes were completely silent.

I was a bit afraid to watch this film. Sasha Grey, a porn actress known for brutally rough anal sex scenes plays the lead. The story focuses on the life of a high-end call girl and her personal trainer boyfriend. I didn't think I could handle it. Pretty Woman played by a real life porn star? I don't think so.

Sasha Grey the pornstar is completely different from Sasha Grey the actress. In her erotic films she is loud, she takes control, and at times seems like a rebellious teenager. In this film she was elegant, sophisticated, and softspoken. Perhaps that proves the point that she really can act. But which is the real Sasha Grey?
Either way, the Sasha Grey who played Chelsea in the film was so believable it almost hurt. Much like Scarlett Johansson's role in Lost in Translation, Grey had little dialogue and appeared very natural. I think the genius is not in Sasha Grey, but in Soderbergh for finding her. Sasha Grey will be a big star. I truly believe that. But this is not the film that will make her a star. Part of her appeal in The Girlfriend Experience was that she was so green to "real" cinema. It worked. She still has a lot to prove. But she can do it.
One of my favorite things about this film was the constant political references. The story takes place during the 2008 election season. Grey's character talks with her wealthy clients about the economy (invest in gold, they say). Her real-life boyfriend is struggling to make ends meet while working as a personal trainer. She herself talks about her escort service as a business - and treats it that way.
The story itself was so heartbreakingly beautiful - just how I like 'em. This was not the story of a high-end call girl swimming in champagne or strung out on drugs or any of that. This was a love story. A story about how everyone wants to be loved. The main relationship in this film was not flawed because Grey's character was a prostitute. It was flawed because of that damn 1 1/2 year itch. Or 5, or 7, or whatever year itch. That point in a relationship where both of you start to drift. The point where both of you start to question your intentions. The point where there is usually no turning back.
The point where you probably should have.