The Girlfriend Experience
- Brian Donaldson
- 17 December 2020
Low key but highly stylish tread through one woman's slowly dissolving soul
Inspired by Steven Soderbergh's 2009 movie about a young woman whose life as a top-rate escort begins to seriously impinge on her real relationship, two anthology seasons of The Girlfriend Experience have just been released onto Starzplay aimed squarely at anyone in the mood for a spot of lo-fi high anxiety. Soderbergh is executive producer on this revamp with the chief writing and directing duties handed to indie pair Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan.
The first season stars Riley Keough whose family tree features some Presleys: her mum Lisa Marie and Elvis as a grandparent she never met, plus a step-dad called Michael Jackson. She doesn't so much moonwalk as glide through much of the 13 half-hour episodes as Christine Reade, a blank stare reflecting the emptiness of her existence as she studies for a law degree and interns at a top firm, while somehow squeezing in time to be an elite prostitute servicing the often curious needs of the rich and vacuous. Given the amount of alcohol she has in a glass at any given moment, there seems more chance of her contracting gout than an STI.
As you'd imagine, all her worlds threaten to collide and do so in the most humiliating way possible. But her reaction is to simply get back on the horse, update her profile and carry on filling up her bank account while emptying her soul. The relentless sex is as unerotic as Seimetz and Kerrigan could possibly make it, while there are endless moments of staring into the middle distance while nothing is said, and long, slow walks occurring through offices, down hotel corridors and in homes, all of which are designed to minimalist perfection.
Thankfully though, the soundtrack is also barely there, a Lynch-esque industrial thrum occasionally breaking in rather than the blaring sax and heavy drums of this show's unnatural predecessor, Red Shoe Diaries, Zalman King's awful 90s softcore rubfest. The low-key and lo-fi aesthetic recalls Soderbergh's breakthrough movie, Sex, Lies, And Videotape, and anyone up for a binge-watch might refrain due its stately pacing and arch manner. For a different kind of light relief, you may even find yourself returning to the one genuine laugh to be had during The Girlfriend Experience's six and a half miserablist hours.
All episodes available on Starzplay, Thursday 17 December.