The Girlfriend Experience review

Sex, lies and hi-def…

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There’s no sex in Steven Soderbergh’s $16m experiment, but every shot is a money shot.

Hardcore icon Sasha Grey (you saw her in Face Invaders 4, we won’t tell anyone) plays a high-priced Manhattan hooker called Chelsea. For $2,000 an hour, she’ll provide “the girlfriend experience” for rich men who don’t have time or patience for real girlfriends.

Between clients, Chelsea lunches with her personal-trainer boyfriend (personal trainer Chris Santos), spars with a journalist (journalist Mark Jacobson) and gets manipulated by a hideous porn reviewer (film critic Glenn Kenny, acing the role to disgusting perfection). So this, in every way, is a mirror-world.

Stylishly shot on HD, the movie unfolds in sleek, faceless hotel rooms, restaurants and boutiques.

Taking place over the five days before Obama’s election with the US economy in freefall, Experience is a snapshot-critique of a world where everyone and everything in life can be bought and sold.

Fiscal angst drives every scene, with Chelsea juggling her accountant, her manager, her website, her clothing line... She catalogues her accessories. She, of course, being the ultimate accessory.

Aged just 21, Grey is perfect. She’s cool, lovely and, ahem, impenetrable. Her gleaming eyes have the cold elegance of someone who’s seen too much and knows too much.

You think you can see something tantalisingly vulnerable just behind them. Maybe because she wants you to think that.

Ocean’s Thirteen scripters Brian Koppelman and David Levien – writing another Soderbergh movie where people chase cash instead of love – never quite find a way through this maze of self-reflecting metaphors.

We never get to the real truth behind Chelsea – but then we’re not supposed to.

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