Home > Culture, Film, Movie Project, Movie Reviews > How Sleeping with your Stepmom is like Watching The Girlfriend Experience and Playing an MMORPG with a Salt Shaker

How Sleeping with your Stepmom is like Watching The Girlfriend Experience and Playing an MMORPG with a Salt Shaker

I’m sitting at the LA Café going through my regular routine of pretending to work.  Sit in the corner, order some food, earth, and then write, away from the prying eyes.  Today, I am privy to exciting conversations from several different directions.  The most intriguing seems to come from three teenage girls, involving incest, the Marines, death threats, and a kid named Xavier.  As in Professor X.  I’m sure this is an entirely true story.

From what I can tell the family Xavier hails from is messed up.  There are Stepdads and Stepmoms sleeping with stepcousins and stepchildren while drunk.  And no, I’m not in Kentucky.  Just Waterford, on the fast track to the South, but still not inbred enough.  In retribution, Xavier, has decided to join the Marines, even though he hates the war.

“DRAMA!” squeals the girl, because apparently sleeping with your Stepparent isn’t dramatic enough.

Xavier wants to join the Marines for a reason a lot of people enlist, not to go fight tyranny across the world, but for financial reasons: he wants to go to college.  This, however, has angered Steve (a newly introduced character) who proclaims that one should only join the military to protect people! And America!  If Steve were here I’d point out that many people join the military to utilize the GI Bill, including a friend of mine, and with the rising cost of college tuition many people view the GI Bill as the only way to afford a college education.  The military hocks it as a recruiting pitch, and we can argue forever about if we really want people mortgaging their lives to go to college, but we’re missing the core of the issue here: If your stepsister slept with your dad, wouldn’t you want to get the fuck out?  Who wouldn’t join the Marines in that situation?  But no, Steve instead threatens to kill Xavier if he joins (If the insurgents don’t get there first – HEY-O!).  Now, apparently, some cousin is hitting on Xavier, or TJ?  Who the hell is TJ?  Is it really too hard to keep simple, consistent characters?  Enough of this Mary Sue shit!

Now as the girls debate to go to the Village or Patridge Creek (“I will not set foot into the Village, not as long as [unintelligible name here, let’s say Todd] works there!” Again, who’s Todd?), and just like that the girls are gone.  They go about their lives, reenacting Lolita, and I go about mine.  Minus the incest, this was The Girlfriend Experience.

Steven Soderbergh’s latest film is an exercise in voyeurism.  Almost all the scenes are filmed with some obstruction in front of the main characters.  They are either far away from the camera, tucked in a corner, partially blocked by windows and furniture, or in the rare close-up the camera focuses on background characters leaving our main characters out of focus.  Only at the end, when Sasha Grey’s character, Chelsea, connects with a client and elicits an emotional response does the camera remain in focus on a close-up.  Then the movie ends, and just like the three teenagers leaving LA Café, they go about their lives and I go about mine.  It’s almost uncomfortable, especially if watched using your cable’s VOD service.  The voyeuristic feeling heightens as you watch their lives from the comfort of your couch.

Before we go on, a new girl is demonstrating how to play a MMORPG to her boyfriend using the salt and pepper shakers.  Their conversation is much healthier than the last one, and so damn cute.

The hype surrounding The Girlfriend Experience focuses almost exclusively on Sasha Grey.  Whose previous works includes I Wanna Bang Your Sister, My Evil Sluts 3 (were we really crying out for a third one?), Sasha Grey’s Anatomy, and the recent This Ain’t Star Trek XXX.  Being glib about her involvement in the film would be easy, but for someone who’s favorite films include works by Jean-Luc Goodard and other foreign classics, and improvised a majority of her part, it would be disingenuous.  The acting doesn’t wow us, but if you’re making it up while you go, the results are impressive.  Plus, she does show a bit of range when she subtly breaks down in at a pivotal point in the film.  Sasha Grey breaks the mold of the stereotypical porn star – in her interviews she shows an oddly cerebral approach to a very non-cerebral industry.  She has a few more non-porn films coming out, and to see her wield a character uttering lines other than “But I shouldn’t, you’re my brother’s best friend!” will be interesting to watch.  Her performance, while cold and distance, fits perfectly with the voyeuristic attitude Soderbergh conveys.  It’s hard to pass final judgment on someone’s acting when the film works on the premise you’re overhearing every conversation in snippets.  Plus, when Sasha Grey isn’t busy looking like a porn star, she’s pretty damn cute.  That’s gotta count for something in America – I mean, Megan Fox gets work.

The Girlfriend Experience doesn’t have any emotional impact; you never pass judgment on the characters or their situation.  At the end, the film just existed and everyone went on living.  It won’t haunt you or make you laugh later, but you’ll keep thinking about it at odd moments as if you’re recalling the odd conversation you overheard about incest-ridden families and MMORPG’s according to salt and pepper shakers.

  1. Stacy
    July 27, 2009 at 7:54 am

    “That’s gotta count for something in America – I mean, Megan Fox gets work.”

    So funny–I just listened to two people at work (guy and a girl) argue over whether she looks like a prostitute or the girl-next-door in the latest noisefest called Transformers. The girl thought the first, the guy the latter. Sometimes even voyeuristicly, we see what we want to see.

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