Posts tagged Steven Soderbergh
This week’s Weekend Movie Preview column has my review of Steven Soderbergh’s crime thriller “Side Effects.”
Summary: Psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) finds his happy marriage and successful career crashing down around him after he prescribes his patient Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) a new antidepressant, which has unanticipated side effects.
Director: Steven Soderbergh (“Magic Mike,” “Haywire”)
Writer: Scott Z. Burns (“Contagion,” “The Informant”)
Notable Supporting Actors: Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mamie Gummer
Click here to read my take.
Hollywood needs more action heroines like Mallory Kane. The protagonist in Steven Soderbergh’s spy thriller “Haywire” is strong and sexy like Lisbeth Salander, except she doesn’t have to show any skin to prove it. Portrayed by MMA fighter Gina Carano, Kane has the cunning of Jason Bourne combined with the fighting skills of Jackie Chan.
What really separates Kane from her sisters in the genre though, is her lack of emotional attachment. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t care about anyone, because she does love her father. However Kane doesn’t let her emotions cloud her judgment, in the usual fashion that many female characters do in Hollywood. Instead, she maintains an even keel and focuses on the tasks necessary to accomplish her mission.
Shot on a budget of less than 2 million dollars, “The Girlfriend Experience” looks and feels like a true indie, in the worst sense of the word. Soderbergh’s style of shooting looks more real, but also looks like a frat guy taped it with his video camera, forgetting to white balance it. His experimental style does not translate well as a whole, rushing through events in an order that is chronologically confusing. Scenes blend events happening in the recent past at an indiscriminate point in the seemingly present, rehashing the same events from similar angles.
The focus of the film is Chelsea (real life porn star Sasha Grey), a high-class prostitute who caters to a wealthy clientele. Chelsea prides herself on offering what’s known as “the girlfriend experience,” spending time with her clients outside the bedroom, allowing them to kiss her and to talk to her about their lives. At the same time, Chelsea tries to keep a serious relationship with a personal trainer named Chris (Chris Santos).
As a prostitute, Chelsea has aspirations of moving up to a wealthier more exclusive client base for greater profit. We follow her on her quest to cultivate business strategies and consult so-called experts in the field. Meanwhile, we also see Chris attempt to move up in the world of fitness, scoping out other gyms and opportunities for management. Unfortunately, neither of them meet with any significant success due to one main reason: the bad economy.
The struggling economy and the presidential election of 2008 were relevant themes when the movie was shot, and the economy remains relevant today. Use of the economy as a plot device partly brings down the fourth wall, tying the characters to real events. This makes the film more relatable to the average person, however as a device it becomes slightly overwhelming. Soderbergh beats you over the head with references to the country’s woes, to the point where you start to suspect him of a douchey liberal political agenda.
Acting as a window into the tough existence of a prostitute and the difficulties of having a normal life in the profession, the film is an interesting peek into a life most people don’t have access to. Almost as a metaphor for concept, Chelsea spends part of her time detailing her experiences to a reporter chronicling her challenges. Chelsea doesn’t make any headway against her problems, which makes this of a portrait of a high-class prostitute is incomplete; its elements painted in a bizarre chronological order, leaving the viewer with a large empty spot on the canvas where a resolution should sit.
Sasha Grey creates a realistic character that’s cold and emotionally closed off to her clients, yet vulnerable and open to people in her life she wants to know intimately. Chris Messina also does solid work as Chelsea’s boyfriend. He tries to understand and support her career, but like most men Chris has difficulty overcoming the jealously that comes with his girlfriend’s career.
In many ways Stephen Soderbergh embarks on a noble experiment with “The Girlfriend Experience,” striving to create a story about a person that most audiences could normally never identify with. His use of the economy as a side element should make his film more relatable, but instead it becomes so overbearing that it feels more like someone trying to make douchey liberal political statements than a movie for the average man.
If you’ve got an Netflix subscription and you’re bored, watching it through their streaming player is not a horrible way to spend an hour and ten minutes. The film’s short length and easy availability of it are slightly redeeming.
My Grade: C