The Girlfriend Experience


Generally favorable reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 26
  2. Negative: 1 out of 26

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Critic Reviews

  1. The Girlfriend Experience is one of Steven Soderbergh's bite-size, semi-improvised, shot-on-DV doodles (like Bubble or Full Frontal), and it's the best one he's made.
  2. 100
    This film is true about human nature. It is not universal, but within its particular focus, it is unrelenting.
  3. The smartest thing director Steven Soderbergh did in the making of The Girlfriend Experience was to cast Sasha Grey.
  4. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Fair warning: I had to see The Girlfriend Experience twice before its pieces settled into coherent shape.
  5. 83
    The thinking behind Grey's casting, with its obvious sex-industry connections, lends the film a degree of verisimilitude, but it really pays off in a cameo by film critic Glenn Kenny, who brings a hilariously sleazy theatricality to the role of an "escort critic" who expects graft for his reviews.
  6. 80
    Her beauty, independence, and stock portfolio notwithstanding, Chelsea’s tale is a timely, tragic one told with typical Soderbergh finesse, a sly, sleek merger of sex, lies and hi def video.
  7. 75
    Voyeurism is a favorite pursuit of Americans, and The Girlfriend Experience works in large part because it indulges that pastime. The fascination with the film is that it offers an arm's-length opportunity to peer through a peephole into a lifestyle that will be exotic and alluring to most in the audience.
  8. 75
    Stylishly shot on the high-def cheap, runs 77 potently sexless minutes. Its subject isn't erotica, it's commodities trading.
  9. Stands among the best of Soderbergh's many "little" films, where he recharges his artistic batteries and tries out new techniques before jumping back into the world of big budgets and superstars.
  10. 75
    Soderbergh's experiments are gripping -- the photography, music, wobbly chronology and so on -- but the movie is more of a curiosity than anything else.
  11. This is one of the director's small, experimental, semi-improvised provocations, and if it doesn't push too deep, it's pointed enough to leave a mark.
  12. Reviewed by: Ronnie Scheib
    Fascinating study of free enterprise in free fall. While it may disappoint thrill-seekers, "Girlfriend" should still delight Soderbergh fans and niche auds.
  13. 70
    Grey isn't the first porn actress to go straight, but she may be the first to allegorize her own situation--projecting an on-screen self-confidence that’s indistinguishable from pathos.
  14. 70
    When the turmoil of the last 12 months has receded and the 10th-anniversary deluxe collectors edition comes around, this strange, numb cinematic experience may seem fresh, shocking and poignant rather than merely and depressingly true.
  15. 70
    A modest success that makes one wish Soderbergh could find some happy middle ground between funky experiments and "Ocean's Eleven."
  16. 70
    The film manages a career-spanning panache: Soderbergh taps into the nervy impulses of his earliest endeavor, "sex, lies and videotape" as well as "Ocean's Eleven." The Girlfriend Experience has something to elevate and exasperate fans of both.
  17. Moderately compelling and clinical. This isn't "Breakfast at Tiffany's"; this isn't even "Klute."
  18. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    It's hampered by a listless quality and a one-note performance by porn-star-turned-actress Sasha Grey.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 25 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 8
  2. Negative: 3 out of 8
  1. Jun 4, 2013
    The Girlfriend Experience is clear, it's a deep down sex documentary of payers that works. The original camera shot footage by StevenThe Girlfriend Experience is clear, it's a deep down sex documentary of payers that works. The original camera shot footage by Steven Sodenburgh are eye catching and deeply subversive and brilliant. The Girlfriend Experience is total porno but brilliant and thought provoking in its own way. The film carries various themes- Romance, Drama, Adult, Black Comedy and much more. Full Review »
  2. Aug 28, 2015
    In my opinion this director has to take a look to the european art cinema, because this film sucks.
    It's about economy, power and sex. And
    In my opinion this director has to take a look to the european art cinema, because this film sucks.
    It's about economy, power and sex. And it's slow. And is a empty movie with no content or story or whatever.
    How interesting is that?

    Attention: there's absolutely no art in this movie.
    Full Review »
  3. Jul 2, 2015
    Roger Ebert is the one critic to truly nail the review on this film.

    This film is true about human nature. It clearly sees needs and
    Roger Ebert is the one critic to truly nail the review on this film.

    This film is true about human nature. It clearly sees needs and desires. It is not universal, but within its particular focus, it is unrelenting. Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience" is about a prostitute and her clients. In such a relationship, the factor of money makes the motives fairly direct on both sides.

    In the language of escort advertising, "GFE" promises a "girlfriend experience." Sometimes sex may not even be involved, although it is implicitly permitted. A man seeking a girlfriend experience offers to pay for companionship, conversation -- having another human being in his life. The women offering a GFE are acting a role, but in some ways, it can be therapeutic. We know what sexual surrogates do. A "girlfriend" may be playing a human surrogate.

    The film involves a woman named Chelsea (Sasha Grey) and the men in her life. She has been living with one of them for 18 months, and in a way, he may be a boyfriend experience. He doesn't seem much more meaningful to her than a client. The other men are of various ages and backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: They are wealthy, and Chelsea is not inexpensive. Typically, they take her to an expensive restaurant and then a luxury hotel. They may send a limousine for her.

    We listen to them talking. We watch them talking. Most of them want to talk about what she does for a living. There is the polite fiction that she is talking about other men, hypothetical men, and not the one she is with. They like to give her advice about how to invest her money, and who to vote for (the story takes place during the 2008 campaign). Each one has some reason for thinking he is somehow special. Set during the run-up to the stock market crash, it shows both sides more interested in investing than sex.

    These men don't want a girlfriend experience. They want a boyfriend experience. They want to feel as if they're on a date. They will be listened to. Their amazing comments will be smiled at. Their hair will be tousled. They will be kidded. They have told Chelsea about their wives and children, and she remembers their names. They can kiss her. There is no illusion that they are leaving their wives, and none that she wants them to. She simply empowers them to feel younger, more looked up to, more clever, than they are.

    What draws a powerful man to pay for a women outside of marriage? It's not the sex. In fact, sex is the beard, if you know what I mean. By paying money for the excuse of sex, they don't have to say: I am lonely. I am fearful. I am growing older. I am not loved. My wife is bored with me. I can't talk to my children. I'm worried about my job, which means nothing to me. Above all, they are saying: Pretend you like me.

    The film was written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien. Believe it or not, the same two wrote the screenplay for Soderbergh's "Ocean's Thirteen." I imagine the three of them sitting around on the "Ocean's" set and asking, "What could we be doing instead of this?"

    Chelsea is played by Sasha Grey. She is 21. Since 2006, according to IMDb, she's made 161 porn films, of which only the first title can be quoted here: "Sasha Grey Superslut." No, here's another, which makes me smile: "My First Porn #7." I haven't seen any of them, but now I would like to see one, watching very carefully, to see if she suggests more than one level.

    Grey wasn't hired because of her willingness to have sex onscreen; there's no explicit sex in the movie and only fleeting nudity. I suspect Soderbergh cast her because of her mercenary approach to sex -- and her acting talent, which may not be ready for Steppenwolf but is right for this film. She owns her own agency and Web site, manages other actresses, has a disconnect between herself and what she does for a living. So does Chelsea.

    The film is intent on her face. It often looks over the shoulder of her clients. She projects precise amounts of interest and curiosity, but conceals real feelings. It is a transaction, and she is holding up her end. Notice the very small nods and shakes of her head. Observe her word choices as she sidesteps questions without refusing to answer them. When her roommate/boyfriend insists on knowing the name of one of her clients, she is adroit in her reply.

    Once she allows her mask to slip: a surprising moment when she reveals what she may feel. Grey perfectly conveys both her hope and her disappointment, keeping both within boundaries. You wonder how a person could look another in the eye and conceal everything about themselves. But the financial traders who are her clients do it every day. Their business is not money, but making their clients feel better about themselves.
    Full Review »