Steven Soderbergh's high-def video bauble "The Girlfriend Experience" is an exquisitely filmed piece of urban impressionism that, unfortunately, leaves one feeling that a sleek gadget has been needlessly purchased.
Set on the eve of the 2008 election, it takes a time-shifting Godard-ian glide through a week in the life of Chelsea (porn star Sasha Grey), a high-end Manhattan call girl whose specialty -- codified by the title -- lies in the sympathetic ear that gives a nurturing spin to the body's closing of the deal.
Chelsea's big-roller clients bemoan the bad economy, and suffering too is her boyfriend, Chris (Chris Santos), who in screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien's scenario works as that other self-gratification enabler: gym trainer. Rather than make a bodies-in-motion romp, however, Soderbergh dwells on the emptiness of commodity-addled souls who are forever selling themselves. (Like his "Ocean's" films, another riff on Hollywood.)
It's a concept more interesting than it plays, however, since the more dramatic elements -- Chelsea's arrangement with an online sex connoisseur (film critic Glenn Kenny), her risk in deepening a relationship with a new client -- never catch fire under Soderbergh's cold, determinedly hall-of-mirrors anti-style.