Monday, August 30, 2010

The Girlfriend Experience...

Steven Soderbergh is at the enviable point in his career where he can afford to make a bad movie and move on to the next project as if nothing happened. This is rarefied air for Hollywood directors and many, even the good ones, don't have that luxury. But I'm wondering what the endgame is here, because his latest efforts have been ghastly. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill bad storyline, unfortunate choice of actors or anything like that. He has taken some very provocative subjects and has rendered them monumentally, unforgivably bad and singularly unwatchable.

How he was able to take an actor with the charisma and talent of Benicio Del Toro, put him in the shoes of one of the most compelling figures of the 20th Century (Argentine guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara) and turn it into a 2-film, 4-plus hour magnum opus of sheer drudgery. Just trying to sit through these films made me feel as if I were sweating it out in some jungle trying not to go insane from the humidity, the incessant marching over mountainous regions and lack of amenities. A crashing bore form beginning to end.

And now we have the latest effort at existential navel-gazing from Soderbergh-"The Girlfriend Experience". The most provocative aspect of this film is the chance he took in hiring porn star Sasha Grey for the lead role, a role she plays to the hilt as one would expect from a vacuous porn star just in it for the easy money and exposure. Her performance is as flat as the pulse of a rotting corpse and stinks up the room with the same aroma.

We have her idiotic boyfriend, played by an equally terrible Al Santos, a personal trainer who spends his time trying to get his clients at an upscale gym to purchase training packages they clearly aren't interested in. His one big moment in the film is a showdown with his boss. He confronts his manager with an ultimatum-give in to his demands for a management level position or he's gone. But his manager, unimpressed, throws in the fact that homeboy is not a team player because he refuses to wear the gym t-shirt while working with the gyms' clients. Absolutely riveting stuff. How these two moron ever got together is one question-why they stay together is another that is never even touched upon throughout the whole film.

We then are subjected to an equally pathetic and annoying array of lonely, jag-off yuppies complaining about the state of the economy and the upcoming Presidential elections. One of the most cringe-worthy episodes involves a Hasidic Jew explaining to Sasha how she should vote for McCain because he's a friend of Israel, and the incessant advice over the course of the movie for her to invest in gold because in a tough economy it's a sure thing. Almost as sure as selling pussy to high-rolling biscuit heads.

The film is littered with drearily one-dimensional, washed-out characters who pathetically try to engage a whore in a deeper, more personal relationship to the point where you really start to feel that being a high-end call girl isn't what it's cracked up to be. Is the money really worth to have to spend time with these emotional cripples? For Sasha's character, it is a resounding YES only because she too is so utterly devoid of any human emotions that one wonders why her character is so fascinating to Sondbergh that he devotes a whole movie around the minutiae of her sordid and empty career.

Grey is actually not bad as Vincent Chases' girlfriend on the HBO series "Entourage", but that's because she's playing off other characters who can actually act. She is only asked to be herself, a porn star who demands to be taken seriously with legitimate roles in real movies while having her butt cheeks firmly entrenched in the line of work that made her famous.

Her 15 minutes will soon be up. Not because she's a terrible actress but because what makes her a porn star is what is holding her back. She oozes an icy emptiness of soul that will be a major impediment to any semblance of a legitimate acting career. It is too ingrained in her persona. Her face is blank and devoid of anything remotely resembling human feeling. She has had way too much cock in her face and up her ass. She has gulped too many gallons of semen for her to be anything but a circus oddity in mainstream films.

This film is a strikeout worthy of a Dave Kingman at-bat. Whatever you do, PLEASE don't waste your time watching it. It is a gigantically smarmy, self-impressed and horrifically boring piece of shit.

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