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MOVIE REVIEW

'The Girlfriend Experience'

May 22, 2009|Robert Abele

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.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, May 23, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
"The Girlfriend Experience": A review of "The Girlfriend Experience" in Friday's Calendar section omitted one of the theaters showing the film: the Landmark in West L.A.

Whether Grey, in her first "straight" gig, has character chops or not feels inconsequential when her affectless delivery becomes a referenced joke toward the end. With a tone of lush disappointment set from the opening frames, "The Girlfriend Experience" is a compelling monotony, but one that's never quite pleasure, never quite pain and, therefore, never quite an experience.

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'The Girlfriend Experience'

MPAA rating: R for sexual content, nudity and language

Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes

Playing: At Encino Town Center; Playhouse 7, Pasadena; South Coast Village 3, Santa Ana; Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood

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