Since the end of Penny Dreadful two years ago, I had never been so obsessed with any program… until I discovered The Girlfriend Experience.
Produced by master Steven Soderbergh, who had already directed a film on the same title, the series follows the adventures of Christine Reade. An aspiring Chicago lawyer who turns escort girl, she proposes the “girlfriend experience”: a performance where the prostitute behaves like the client’s companion, accompanying him to the restaurant and listening to him speak as much as she offers him her crotch.
“Another story about a student selling her body to pay for college,” you might say. Far from it! Although dealing with a subject seen and reviewed, this little gem from the Starz channel contains its share of surprises. Let’s take a look at this highly addictive series…
Each shot is filmed with striking beauty, from a simple door that opens to Chelsea’s — Christine’s alias — intercourse. The sets are minimalist, without ever being simplistic, and rely heavily on the use of glass. A transparency that resonates with the opacity of the high-flying escorts.
Actually, the camera points to a certain voyeurism. Like a guilty pleasure, where the spectator finds himself a customer before noticing, while being fully consenting…
Chelsea, the anti-victim
If the series could easily have felt into stereotypes, it avoids them with brio. The character of Christine / Chelsea is a treasure of complexity. Where the protagonists generally reveal themselves through the episodes, she seems increasingly elusive as the plot continues.
Don’t look for the victim’s archetype, she’s not one. Neither broke, nor psychologically disturbed, she engages in prostitution in all conscience. Throughout the season, you will only want one thing: putting yourself in her shoes, trying to understand her…
Escort girl: an amoral profession
Ultimately, the series makes no judgment on prostitution per se. Like any other job, it is neither good nor bad… This is all the more visible when, in the first episodes, Christine dines with Jacqueline, director of an escort agency – or madame, depending on how you see it. Anyway, one could easily mistake it with an interview for a marketing project manager position.
The Girlfriend Experience also asks about our personal data and the availability of information about us, but also how we choose to offer — or not — these valuable parts of us. What if, in a way, we’re all someone’s prostitute…? •
The Girlfriend Experience, a Starz channel series, is currently available on Canal Play and Amazon Prime Video.