The hardcore teen queen who took the name Sasha Grey and refers to her porn films as performance art plays a paid escort called Chelsea in Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience. For something like $25,000, a "date" with this slim, pretty, perfectly-turned-out 20-year-old can really be like a date. The movie's opening scene has the escort and her less-than-middle-aged john dining at some painfully hip boite and discussing the movie they just saw (Man on Wire), before they retire to his pad to make out on the couch -- with breakfast the next morning on the penthouse terrace. It's October 2008, the stock market is plunging, and, like most of Chelsea's clients, he feels obligated to give her investment advice. The Girlfriend Experience is a mosaic of short, largely a-chronological scenes. Flashbacks are indistinguishable from flash-forwards; the emphasis is on Chelsea's behavior in the here and now. With some clients, Chelsea plays the shrink; with others, she's simply a source of physical comfort. With most, however, she's the ideal girlfriend -- a poised and personable ingenue -- which is more or less the role that Sasha Grey, reader of Thomas Pynchon, composer of "noise music," and winner of the 2008 AVN Award for Best Oral Sex Scene, has in "life" Grey isn't the first porn actress to go straight, but she may be the first to allegorize her own situation -- projecting an on-screen self-confidence that's indistinguishable from pathos.
May 22-28, 2009