The Girlfriend Experience

Metascore
66

Generally favorable reviews - based on 26 Critics What's this?

User Score
5.9

Mixed or average reviews- based on 23 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: Set in the weeks leading up to the 2008 presidential election, The Girlfriend Experience is five days in the life of Chelsea, an ultra high-end Manhattan call girl who offers more than sex to her clients, but companionship and conversation – “the girlfriend experience.” Chelsea thinks sheSet in the weeks leading up to the 2008 presidential election, The Girlfriend Experience is five days in the life of Chelsea, an ultra high-end Manhattan call girl who offers more than sex to her clients, but companionship and conversation – “the girlfriend experience.” Chelsea thinks she has her life totally under control—she feels her future is secure because she runs her own business her own way, makes $2000 an hour, and has a devoted boyfriend who accepts her lifestyle. But when you're in the business of meeting people, you never know who you're going to meet. (Magnolia Pictures) Expand
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 26
  2. Negative: 1 out of 26
  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. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    88
    Fair warning: I had to see The Girlfriend Experience twice before its pieces settled into coherent shape.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Moderately compelling and clinical. This isn't "Breakfast at Tiffany's"; this isn't even "Klute."
  6. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    60
    Though the result is thematically slight, it's structurally sophisticated enough to reward a second viewing (or at least, unlike Grey's previous work, to be watched all the way through).
  7. 25
    Time for another of Steven Soderbergh's "experimental," i.e., half-assed, films.

See all 26 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 8
  2. Negative: 3 out of 8
  1. Jun 4, 2013
    10
    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. Expand
  2. Jul 2, 2015
    10
    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.
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  3. NanaK.
    May 23, 2009
    7
    Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) nailed the allegory. I liked it more than Full Frontal, but not as much as Bubble.
  4. Jul 12, 2014
    4
    bit of a weird movie. Grey is good, it´s just nothing you really getbit of a weird movie. Grey is good, it´s just nothing you really get out of it Expand
  5. Aug 28, 2015
    3
    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.
    Expand
  6. AlanZ
    May 23, 2009
    2
    Don't be fooled (or is it seduced) by the salacious title or overt sensual appeal of Sasha Grey (if that's what you're after Don't be fooled (or is it seduced) by the salacious title or overt sensual appeal of Sasha Grey (if that's what you're after there are far better places to see her on display). The film is disjointed, distant, and vacant of any character development or depth. It's more about human bankruptcy than it is about any economic one. Perhaps it's only really meaningful comment is the films narrow indictment of the current Jewish world view in contemporary America. I know that's a stretch but after you've spent 80 minutes in a duldrum you might want to reach for anything. Soderbergh is far too talented for this phone-in of a film. He knows this terrain well. Revisit 'sex, lies and videotapes' for a mirrowed style but a film of importance and substance. Collapse
  7. Mike
    Oct 9, 2009
    0
    Yes, we get it the economy is bad, and guess what, So is this movie! I couldn't believe what a bore this was! uninteresting, and the Yes, we get it the economy is bad, and guess what, So is this movie! I couldn't believe what a bore this was! uninteresting, and the director sucks. Stop pretending to be making "art" being this movie is garbage. Expand

See all 8 User Reviews

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