Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Girlfriend Experience

I liked Bubble, Soderbergh's previous digital improv experiment, a helluva lot, largely because it got the white working-class speech I grew up with better than any movie I've ever seen. The Girlfriend Experience is a very different milieu, and a much more sharply satiric experience. Where Bubble was immersed in its characters' unmoored, dead-end lives, TGfE keeps its distance, both narratively and visually (nearly every shot of Christine puts some object between us and her).

It's very hard to identify with anyone in the film, but I'm okay with that, and I'm hugely irritated by how many critics seem to regard that as a fatal flaw, writing as though Modernism never happened (although the NY Post's description of it as "a stag movie as conceived by the editors of the Financial Times" is actually pretty apt). It's all the more depressing considering that many of those same critics know to pay homage to directors like Resnais and Antonioni, even as they refuse to consider a contemporary American with similar objectives.

As usual, a lot of my thoughts come out best commenting on other sites. At Amy's Robot, Amy mostly liked the film, but we disagree about Grey's performance. And I have a lot to say about Lauren Wissot's review at The House Next Door; Wissot manages to combine Pauline Kael's unpleasant sense of aesthetic entitlement with the smugness of a San Francisco sex activist, then tops it off with Armond White's defensive laziness, but I always have fun getting peeved with her.

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