The Girlfriend Experience

"The Girlfriend Experience" is fucking brilliant. It's slow, but beautiful.

1) The cinematography is used beautifully. In general, the movie is shot in normal color, but with lots of silhouettes or shadowed faces on a bright background, except when the lead girl (no idea what her name is in the movie) and her boyfriend are together, when it shifts to a bright sepia color scheme.

And the framing of the shots is also fantastic. At the beginning of the movie, it is mostly mid-zoom two shots, almost no close-ups (perfect idea when your lead is a porn star, good way to hide her acting), and certainly no extreme close-ups. But, as the movie progresses and you get a more intimate knowledge of the characters, the camera actually pulls back to more long shots (again, perfectly obscuring your lead actress' acting skills in long shot partial silhouettes during the most interesting emotional moments.)

2) The story is amazing, and the characters are wonderful. The transformation in the lead girl, and her relationship with her boyfriend is very intimate and moving. At first, because of the closer camera angles, we physically can't see the situation the girl is living in, we really only see where she is on these "dates" she goes on, but as the camera pulls back, we see that she has quite an affluent lifestyle (especially when shown in contrast to her boyfriend). Suddenly, as we see her apartment, and her shopping trips, and where she goes to the gym, we can understand how well she is doing for herself. But, as we go we are also shown how, she is really just a lower level escort. She still can climb a long way.

This shift in how we see her lifestyle also changes how we see the clients she has. At first, it seems like these guys she is with are big time businessmen, in the upper levels of society. But, as we understand more the money level she is at, we understand more that these men are not social elites. These are just men who are looking for something in their lives. Again, she has a long way that she can climb in her profession.

The story is shot in a way that feels closer to life than most. Because the visuals are so spot on, I attribute this more to the sound design. The sound levels are such that you can hear a lot of the background noises (forks on plates, etc.) much more than in most movies. So, even though visually it is slick, the sound of the movie is closer to a home movie, and this makes it more intimate, but it also is another trick that helps you forgive some of the leading lady's lack of acting skills.

Of course, by now I've taken a couple of jabs at Sasha Grey's acting skills, but honestly, even taking out the camera and sound trickery, she did a pretty good job. She may not be an award winner, but she's at least on par with "actresses" that just play themselves in every role (see: Lindsey Lohan, Tara Reid, et al.) and for a porn star, that's pretty elite acting territory. I can't imagine her straying to far from a subtle role of playing a high-class hooker, but she did well for herself.

The movie started slow, but it built its way up and ended up surprising me. I'd give it 3.5 stars.

(I need something better than stars, by which I can rate movies. (There must be a better way to make that sentence come out grammatically correct.)