The life of a high-end prostitute as illustrated in The Girlfriend Experience is and is not what the viewer may expect. Sure the monetary compensation is great for these individuals but the emotional toll for an escort when they meet the wrong client or encounter a raucous proposition seems to mitigate some of the rewards. Many facets of the escort service known as “the girlfriend experience” can be witnessed in a few episodes of the excellently scripted Showtime television show Secret Diary of a Call Girl, where a escort acts as an adoring and loving girlfriend of her patron for however long they have been contracted to do so for. Christine (Sasha Grey), whose real name is Chelsea, is in the lucrative yet illegal business of selling herself for sexual favors. Her prominence in the field has garnered her the attention of an elite clientele, the interest of a reporter (for her story) and the ogling of ogres (Glenn Kenny) trying to poach what they can physically while promising her a good write-up and future “job” opportunities.
Christine’s looks and personality, what little of that guarded persona is actually on display in the film, have captured her the affection and understanding (he knows what she does for a living) of her live-in boyfriend Chris (Chris Santos).
In a non-linear dissection of her semi-opulent lifestyle, the viewer follows Christine through a few days of her life. The viewer sees her highs and her lows. Though Christine is not trapped physically in her profession, she does seem to be by the lifestyle she has become accustomed to (shown through a posh apartment and by shopping as if price was of no concern) hence the longevity of her ignominious career choice. Like John Pierpont Morgan said (paraphrased): “If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it.” The same goes for Christine and others in her line of work.
As The Girlfriend Experience progresses, Christine recounts the frivolities from previous workdays’ ether in her head or on her laptop. While doing so, what she is thinking or what she is typing is delivered in a detached, monotonistic voice that shows just how removed she is from what just transpired. In the first instance of it, Christine even repeats what she thinks twice in the same droll, driving the point home further, possibly reminding some of Humbert Humbert from Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience is an independent film equipped with an apt neophyte actress yet missing a strong story line that would have made this film more than an exercise in independent film making and artistic license. Christine’s final emotionally scene in The Girlfriend Experience, as she sits by herself heartbroken, can also be construed as a lamentation that her story was not given more depth and that the actress playing her was not in a more well-rounded film for her debut.