Saturday, July 4, 2009
Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience
Steven Soderbergh's latest attempt to revolutionize independent filmmaking, The Girlfriend Experience, is a pretty interesting film. It's not breaking any new ground or anything, but it's a generally well made film about a high-class call girl, her gym trainer boyfriend and their relationship in the uncertain early days of the current recession. The real gem in this piece, however, is the performance from much-publicized porn star Sasha Grey.
On a technical front, Grey isn't a terribly gifted actress. Often her delivery and demeanor suggests one of those vapid girls on The Hills and she doesn't exactly have the type of voice you'd want to listen to for hours on end. In all honesty, I really don't see her having much of a legitimate acting career after this. Despite all this, however, I thought her performance in The Girlfriend Experience was an interesting feat, in much the same way that I've always liked Raquel Welch in Myra Breckenridge: on their own they are not very good but in the context of the film, the performance works. Actually, the film and Grey have a legitimate symbiotic relationship; the one without the other truly doesn't work.
The reason I think Grey is so successful in The Girlfriend Experience is because her character, Chelsea, is supposed to be a cipher. She's so good at her job because she is naturally a blank slate for all of her clients to project whatever they want her to be when they are with her. Chelsea may be nodding her head at the appropriate times and pretending to be interested in their worries (mostly about the financial meltdown), but she probably doesn't really care in the least. But these clients don't care because she can fake it well enough and they're too caught up in their own problems to even notice.
Grey's Chelsea is so good at this that when confronted with her own emotions in "real" relationships with her boyfriend and, in snippets throughout the film, a reporter writing a piece about her and her work, she has no way of communicating to them. When her boyfriend confronts her after she tells him she's going away for the weekend with another guy, she sits there and gives very vague and short answers to his (necessary and completely called for) inquisition, almost as if she expects him to know what she's talking about without explaining anything. There's also a really great moment when the interviewer is asking her a question she really doesn't want to answer and Grey's Chelsea just sits there, squirming, obviously hoping that by constantly looking away he'll take the hint and move on:
There are many other small moments like this one that are immeasurable to the potency of Grey's performance. I wish I could be optimistic and say that this is the beginning of a great career, but I really can't (although stranger things certainly have happened). Oh well, at least we'll always have this performance to treasure for years to come.