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FILM OF THE WEEK & PODCAST: The Girlfriend Experience (Glenn Kenny)


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via GreenCine Daily on 5/21/09


The Girlfriend Experience
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
2008, 144 Minutes, In English and Spanish

Shot similarly to Bubble, Soderbergh's other low-budget digital drama featuring a cast of non-professional actors and utilizing "structured improv" (as the director called it in my interview with him), The Girlfriend Experience has made bigger news for the professional ringer who shoulders its story, 21-year-old porn star Sasha Grey in her first non-XXX role. (For my interview with her, click here.) From the official website:

Chelsea is an upscale Manhattan call girl who provides more than just a sexual encounter; for a price, she’ll simulate a complete romantic relationshipâ€"a girlfriend “experience.†Despite a wide variety of happy customers, Chelsea wants to expand her business. Her real boyfriend Chris, a personal trainer at a downtown gym, has come to terms with his girlfriend’s level of experience, not to mention the posh apartment they share as a result of her success.

But it's October of 2008 and the faltering U.S. economy is on everyone’s lips. One of Chelsea’s clients, a Hassidic jeweler, advises her against keeping her savings in diamondsâ€""Diamonds have no value. Keep it in gold." Meanwhile, she solicits advice from businesspeople (some of whom are clients) on how to achieve growth in a down market. Chelsea goes so far as to visit a sex connoisseur who runs an influential website and who promises Chelsea a favorable review in exchange for a free sample. Meanwhile, Chris finds himself at an impasse in his own career: training wealthy hedge fund managers, he’s generating plenty of business for the gym, but little of that lucre is coming back to him. Worse, his relationship with Chelsea has cooled--hardly a girlfriend experience at all. On the heels of a nasty web review from the sex connoisseur, Chelsea meets Philip, a new client from out of town who listens to her as she unloads her career anxieties to him. In Philip, Chelsea finally sees the promise of a real relationshipâ€"a real girlfriend experienceâ€"not just another transaction.

Sitting in my Brooklyn living room, I conducted my third and final Girlfriend Experience interview with film critic Glenn Kennyâ€"a good friend, neighbor and colleague (for that matter, the guy who gave me my start in film journalism, damn him)â€"to jabber about his villainous supporting role as "The Erotic Connoisseur," how the film reminds him of Richard Lester's Petulia, the raunchy industry slang he picked up in his research, and whether he would've done a simulated sex scene if asked. [Warning: Mildly NSFW.]

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Also of note: Glenn's set diary has been posted at the Auteurs'.

The Girlfriend Experience opens tomorrow in limited release, and is already available via Video on Demand. For more info, visit the official site.

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