The Girlfriend Experience

by Erin Thursby
If your taste for the cinema runs toward less mainstream fare, you might want to check out The Girlfriend Experience at the 5 Points Theatre.
The movie follows a high-class call girl as she navigating a balance between her boyfriend and her job. While she markets herself, we see her boyfriend doing the same in his job as a personal trainer, just as restlessly.
While Chelsea and her boyfriend argue (and it seems inevitable that they will) the camera inches incrementally towards them. This cinematic trick makes the scene seem claustrophobic, even though the apartment they live in is quite spacious. The quality and style of the film jumps around a bit, but all the shifts make sense in their context. While it might seem momentarily jarring to have the camera suddenly become a camera phone or somebody’s hand recorder, it makes sense.
At the prices Chelsea is charging, her encounters are more than sex. The Girlfriend Experience, or GFE, is an acronym code that many of these pricey prostitutes use to denote offering more than sex. It’s about companionship, listening to a guy. For a few hours he feels he’s the most important thing in someone else’s life.
The backdrop for the film is a moment in time that still feels immediate: the election and the bailout plan that both McCain and Obama voted for. Her clients gripe about the economy moments before they use her. Money is a central focus for almost every character in the film. But behind the money is an emotionalism, need to be heard and understood. Money buys that, or at least a facsimile of it.
In an odd way, these guys seem to want to take care of and advise Chelsea. They spend some of their time advising her to invest in gold and talk about how she should market herself.
A great deal of the film’s appeal is bound to be a glimpse into a hidden world. From my past research into the world of higher and lower priced call girls, I’d say that it’s fairly accurate. These girls vet their clients; they know as much as they can about them and they keep records. On her laptop, she recounts what she wore, what they liked and what they talked about. And, she makes sure to ask about their wife and kids, if they have any.
It’s worth mentioning that the actress playing Chelsea is a star in her own right, albeit in a particular genre. At just 21 Sasha Grey has made over 150 porn movies. She’s perfected the Mona Lisa smile, using her emotional armor as shield that both attracts with its mystery and enigmatically repels. Her affect can be flat, but that seems a calculation, so that the men who hire her can project what they need onto her.
While the film isn’t emotionally satisfying because there is no Bollywood ending, it does what indie style films should do; it stays with you and gives you something to think about. All in all, it’s an excellent film that could make for great date fodder and discussion, as long as both parties aren’t offended by nudity and the subject matter.