Directed by Steven Soderbergh, The Girlfriend Experience follows a high-priced call girl (Sasha Grey’s Chelsea) as she goes about her business over the course of a few ordinary days – with the film primarily detailing Chelsea’s encounters with clients and friends alike. Soderbergh has, as anticipated, infused The Girlfriend Experience with a lush and consistently captivating visual sensibility that initially compensates for the film’s unapologetically uneventful atmosphere, and there’s little doubt that the almost total lack of context or exposition is, for a little while, not quite as problematic as one might’ve feared. There does reach a point, however, at which the relentlessly meandering narrative becomes impossible to overlook, with the progressively less-than-enthralling vibe exacerbated by the central character’s underdeveloped nature – as scripters David Levien and Brian Koppelman are simply unable (or unwilling) to get inside Chelsea’s head to a satisfactory degree (ie what makes this girl tick? why does she do the things she does? etc, etc). It’s subsequently rather difficult to work up any interest in Chelsea’s mundane exploits, and although the movie does boast an admittedly authentic feel, The Girlfriend Experience‘s few positive elements are inevitably rendered moot by its needlessly non-linear structure and an ongoing emphasis on small-talk-type conversations. It’s finally impossible to label the film as anything more than yet another failed cinematic experiment from Soderbergh, and it’s impossible not to wish that the director would pay as much attention to story and narrative as he does to visuals and atmosphere.
** out of ****