Despite much press about Sony pulling the plug at the last minute on Steven Soderbergh’s MONEYBALL, Mr. S still has much to be thankful for. And so do we. His latest offering had a pre-theatrical release on Amazon Video On Demand, then went limited theatrical on May 22 with a simultaneous release on Pay-Per View.
This low-budget indie outing was, like CHE, shot digitally on the RedOne camera with a budget of $1.3 million. Like Sodergergh’s earlier BUBBLE (which I loved), THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE stars a cast of non-actors, with the exception of real life porn star Sasha Grey.
The film is absolutely terrific and so are almost all of the performances. Particularly Grey. And somehow, even those perfs that were lacking in finesse and may have seemed a bit self-conscious, managed to work for me within the context of the story and the way in which the characters were presented.
And for those who have claimed that Soderbergh’s indie films are lacking in style (you know who you are), nothing could be further from the truth here. GIRLFRIEND is rich in style and texture, with striking compositions and a daring use of focus which incorporates limited movement and slowly draws the audience in with a formidably hypnotic effect.
More a tale of deals, negotiations, growth and decay than, say, a romantic comedy, GIRLFRIEND nonetheless manages to darkly tickle the funny bone while simultaneously being tragic, insightful and unrelenting. It is certainly one of the more profoundly reflective films for the age in which we find ourselves. The story takes place in New York City during the presidential election campaign and the subsequent economic downfall. And more perfect a setting could not have been used for a film and characters obsessed with money and control. What we buy and what we sell, whether it be merchandise, dreams, lust, romance, or our own souls, is at the center of GIRLFRIEND. Soderbergh brilliantly and stylishly holds a mirror up to our current America and some of the people that may inhabit it.