So, what happens when a movie about a sex worker isn't really about sex?  The Girlfriend Experience, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is a non-sequential drama that's as much about the economy as it is about sex-for-pay.

Chelsea (Sasha Gray, real life former porn star) is a sophisticated, high-end escort living and working in Manhattan.  In addition to sex, she offers her clients "the girlfriend experience," where they talk about whatever they like -- before, after, or even instead of sex.  In her narration, she describes her meetings with the clients: Who they are, what she wore, and what they did on their "date."  She also describes her work to a journalist (Mark Jacobson) and we hear her conversations with her clients.   And she's working on expanding her brand, from investing in ways to increase her online presence to opening a clothing boutique.
There's also Chris (Chris Santos), Chelsea's boyfriend.  He's fine with her work but upset by her belief in "personology," a kind of astronomy where she thinks some clients could be her soulmate.  He works as gym instructor and is working to get ahead, at his gym, other gyms, and possibly selling clothes.  And he wonders if Chelsea'd be bothered if he went to a guys' weekend to Las Vegas.
All of this is happening before the 2008 presidential election -- and worries about the state of the economy and where it's heading are omnipresent.  There's far more discussion about money than sex in The Girlfriend Experience.

But does it work?  This movie skips a traditional linear plot in favor of (mostly) brief scenes scattered: meetings with clients, friends, investors, etc.  Sasha Gray plans Chelsea as almost always emotionally closed, which interesting to a point but hard to get invested in her.  The Girlfriend Experience may not be consistent, but it is interesting.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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