The Girlfriend Experience, Steven Soderbergh (2009)

A lot of the hype surrounding this movie had not so much to do with its slightly salacious subject as with its provenance and distribution; Soderbergh made it for a measly 1.3 million, shot it on a cheapie digital camera, and distributed it through various new media outlets in lieu of a theatrical release. Well and good to prove that movies can in fact be made (relatively) inexpensively, but when you think about it, you might be better off spending more money and hiring actors who can act and writers who can write, because wasting 1.3 million dollars is a pretty big waste, and that’s what this is. Sasha Grey is completely unbelievable not only as a high-class escort, but as a human being, and Soderbergh’s efforts to art up the proceedings by lurching back and forth in time leave you not intrigued but annoyed and confused.

I should mention, though, that there are some early gestures which, while they go entirely unrealized here, do suggest the potential for this kind of filmmaking. Since the timeline from writing to shooting to production to distribution is so streamlined, you see here the possibility of having characters on a movie screen talking about historical events which happened not a year or two ago, but a month or two ago. Grey has conversations with Wall Street johns about the AIG bailout, leading to a few nearly-interesting moments counterposing her business model and that of the financial industry. But this angle never really comes to any point.

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