Occasionally I get DVD’s in the mail that I didn’t ask for and every now and then I’ll sit down and watch them. In my casual perusing of a stack of DVD’s/Blu-ray’s I came across Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience”. Admittedly what really caught my eye was the name “Sasha Grey” and I’ll tell you why. Miss Grey is in the adult movie business and has made well over 100 films. This review won’t be about her “other” acting career. A simple search on her name will provide you with more than enough information on her and will undoubtedly produce photos and videos as well. I have to say that I was very intrigued, though. I mean Steven Soderbergh is an Academy Award winning director (“Traffic” 2001), has made hits both commercial and independent for the last twenty years and now he’s making a movie starring one of the biggest porn stars in the world! What exactly is going on here?
“The Girlfriend Experience” is just that. We follow Chelsea (Sasha Grey) on some of her exploits. She’s an escort (or prostitute if you want to demoralize it) and not a cheap one at that. Her clients are very wealthy, or at least wealthy enough to pay her $2000/hour fee. They wine and dine her, but sex isn’t always part of the equation. Granted, if they want it – it’s there, but these men want her attention more than her body. She has a live-in boyfriend of 18 months and he’s ok with her choice of lifestyle. There are rules, ones in which she breaks later on in the film and it causes tension. Moreover, Chelsea’s concerns don’t seem so focused on her job, rather how to invest her money (and we have to assume she’s doing very well, financially speaking). The movie was filmed against the backdrop of the 2008 election as there are several intercuts of McCain and Obama. It gives the movie a dated feel to it, but that’s ok. Don’t expect a porn when watching this movie. It’s not one. If you want to see Sasha Grey in her other roles, there’s plenty of titles to choose from. But for me, this is somewhat of a return to “Sex, Lies and Videotape” for Soderbergh and that’s just fine by me.
Video: How does it look?
Until he hit it big, Steven Soderbergh was the epitome of an independent filmmaker. In fact, several people credit him with the movement of independent film. That aside, “The Girlfriend Experience” looks about as independent as they come. The 1.78 AVC HD transfer looks like it was shot on a $200 camera bought at Best Buy. Grain abounds, the hand held camera shots are bouncy and there are several shots that are so washed out, it was like looking at a white screen. I got the impression very early on that if I had any expectations about this movie making full use of my HDTV, it was wrong. But it works here and if you can get past this film not looking razor sharp, it’s ok. I watched both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of this movie and the Blu-ray does look a bit better, but not by much. Leave your hopes at the door because you will not be impressed by the way this looks.
Audio: How does it sound?
For what it’s worth, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is present, but it’s not used to its potential in the least. If I could use one word to describe this movie in terms of audio, it’d be “mono”, as that’s how it sounds. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue is all we hear and with very little help from the surrounds, that’s about as good as it will get. Like the video for this movie, the audio is about as basic as it comes. The speech sounds a bit slurred and drowned out. Again, I don’t see state-of-the-art audio on this film, maybe a boom mic or two. Still, the dialogue is understandable and if you can get past six of your speakers not being used, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The disc doesn’t sport a lot of supplements, but I did really enjoy the commentary track by Steven Soderbergh and Sasha Grey (ironically, the audio here is much better than in the film itself). They play off each other very well and I enjoyed the insight from Sasha Grey, she’s obviously more than just a pretty face and has a knack for business to boot. There’s also a look at “The Girlfriend Experience” which becomes a bit redundant if you listened to the commentary track. Some highlights include an interview with Sasha Grey and how she got the part, etc. Lastly the movie is the “Unrated” cut, but having never seen the film before this, I don’t know what was added in. There’s nothing too graphic (sexually speaking) that I could recall.