The Girlfriend Experience

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domino harvey
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The Girlfriend Experience

#1 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:25 pm

Starz has picked up the Girlfriend Experience for a thirteen episode season to be written and directed by Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz (known favorites of Soderbergh), with Soderbergh serving as executive producer

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:34 pm

Especially with Grey out and someone likely more capable in, this sounds really promising. Assuming that the show isn't built around the same flimsy social commentary that the film was. If it can transcend the whole "let's take a new look at prostitution that's still ultimately judgmental" premise, it could turn out to be really compelling, particularly with Kerrigan at the helm. I wonder if Amy Seimetz will be starring, or just co-writing and co-directing.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#3 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jun 24, 2014 3:17 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Especially with Grey out and someone likely more capable in, this sounds really promising. Assuming that the show isn't built around the same flimsy social commentary that the film was. If it can transcend the whole "let's take a new look at prostitution that's still ultimately judgmental" premise, it could turn out to be really compelling, particularly with Kerrigan at the helm. I wonder if Amy Seimetz will be starring, or just co-writing and co-directing.
Counter: It's on Starz.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#4 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jun 24, 2014 3:56 pm

So was Party Down - I fail to see why the network is a problem...

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#5 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jun 24, 2014 4:08 pm

They canceled it rather abruptly though, right? But you could have a point. If they market it well (which is like shooting fish in a barrel in this particular case, as sex sells itself) it could succeed.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 24, 2014 4:13 pm

Starz cancelled Party Down because it was pulling in an astonishing 0.0 rating share with 18-49 viewers (not a joke: 74,000 total viewers for a first run episode in the last season)


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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#8 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:30 pm

Never heard of the lead performer so I did a search and was surprised to find out that's Elvis Presley's granddaughter. Those eyes (or eyelids?) have got to be the most prominent feature of that gene pool.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#9 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:41 am

Has anyone else watched the Starz series? Once I made the connection that one of the standout performers from American Honey and It Comes at Night was the lead, and the episodes are a half hour long (huge bonus), I took the plunge and am very glad I did. LQ and I just finished Episode 6 ("Boundaries") and are absolutely sold after some initial reservations that not a ton... was happening plot-wise, or with Christine's "inner life" as LQ so aptly described it. The quiet menace in this episode is palpable, and it's amazing how the rhythm that Seimetz and Kerrigan constructed is so effectively punctured when something unexpected happens.
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Opening the episode with Jack yanking Christine into the pool, before we've been introduced to the character at all, and then letting the episode unsettlingly build from there, made Episode 6 the series' high point so far, and something tells me it's further uphill from here.
If the film kept you at too much of a distance with its naïveté about and introductory level overview of Christine's chosen profession without much below the surface, the series manages to add more dimension and plotting without sacrificing the spare, stark look and feel of the film, and of Christine herself. Riley Keough is a much better actress than Grey where it counts, when the character needs to find little moments to reveal herself around the edges. And while the film was an interesting experiment, enlisting an expert at the sort of detachment required for the profession to just do what she was able to do in the porn industry, having a bona-fide Actress in this role makes all the difference in the series. Which feels especially weird to say, since without Grey as a muse of sorts, it's likely that none of this would have existed in the first place!

Looking forward to finishing out the first season, and it sounds like that'll be all she wrote with the Keough's Christine: there'll be a second season in 2018, but a la Fargo, it'll have the a different plot and cast (with the same creative team).

Oh, and Soderbergh made me chortle out loud with this:
Indiewire article on the 2nd season wrote:"It was always our intention to change the universe every season, but Amy and Lodge have cranked up the ambition, scope, and complexity of the show by creating two storylines even more provocative and confrontational than last year's. I'm as excited as a Swedish person is allowed to get," Soderbergh said.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)

#10 Post by All the Best People » Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:21 am

I love both the movie and the series, and they are largely different outside of a similarity of shooting/editing style and tone. I would say that the show is more deserving of its own dedicated thread than being simply a run-on of the discussion of the movie. I'm very excited to see what Kerrigan and Seimetz have in store for season two.

One thing I have yet to watch is the alternate cut on the Blu-Ray, which isn't a "director's cut" but simply a film built, apparently, on varying takes and story developments.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#11 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:28 am

EDIT: Okay, there's enough for a threadsplit after all, I didn't realize at first.

Two episodes left to go for us after another evening of binging. Man, Riley Keough is a mega-talent. The episode "Blindsided" is one of the best television episodes I've ever seen - it's conceived and blocked and edited so well by Seimetz, and Keough is just giving a masterclass. Her character's emotional vacancy during the early episodes of the show is paying off in spades now that the stakes have gotten so high.

Considering that this is a 13 episode season of half hour, very well-paced segments, you'd be crazy not to watch it if you're a fan of Soderbergh, or Seimetz, or Kerrigan. And Shane Carruth's original score is excellent, with the music nearly hitting The Knick heights at certain key moments.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#12 Post by All the Best People » Wed Jun 14, 2017 1:10 am

"Blindsided" is just an engrossing buildup in tension and release.

The finale is a real trip. The episode prior to it is another excellent showcase for Keough.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#13 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Jun 14, 2017 10:28 am

Predictably, we finished this out yesterday. I'm not sure I'm as sold on the finale as you are on the whole - I thought the way it opened was a little... well, I don't know what tone was trying to be established by showing Christine going through the sort of expensive and thorough beauty routine that is not just exclusive to sex workers. It's notable that the two times I thought this show was being unusually schoolmarmish involved cum and wax (Together at Last!) - but it largely had a positive (if realistic) attitude toward sex work that made it feel very progressive, and that came through in spades in the long roleplay cuckolding sequence that concluded the series.

The final scene was the perfect thesis for what had come before it and what we were to take away from our time spent in Christine's world - she was in control of her work, frustrated by her work, enjoying her work (not to mention, she was in what seemed to be very real danger of a client losing their grip on the line between reality and fantasy at points) and Keough's eyes do the best job the show has ever done letting us in to what Christine gets (and doesn't get) out of this career in those final seconds. By crafting Christine to be so in control of her life and so savvy and smart, Seimetz and Kerrigan get away with ending a story about a full time escort on a note of optimism that whatever is down the road for her, she'll be ready to face it down and come out ahead.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#14 Post by All the Best People » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:56 am

I think the finale simply did a great job of dramatizing the metafictional layers of the sex worker engaging in that sort of roleplay. The final shot has also been seen by some as a hint that the whole thing might have been a fantasy (it's odd that she's in the same location as the roleplay), which I don't sign on to, but even the episode title -- "Separation" -- goes toward the notion of her compartmentalizing her life; one of my favorite shots is that of her being completely uninterested when the client is going down on her, thus showing us how her emotional/actorly engagement is completely separate from any sort of actual physical engagement. I take the final shot to show that perhaps her only real route to sexual satisfaction is through herself. She has largely been a self-focused character throughout the show, so it all fits together. But there's an impressive amount of nuance in the characterization.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#15 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Jun 14, 2017 12:04 pm

All the Best People wrote:it's odd that she's in the same location as the roleplay
Glad I wasn't alone in this, but I think the likely explanation is just that the John just left the hotel room before she did, or he was in the shower.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#16 Post by All the Best People » Thu Jun 15, 2017 4:36 am

mfunk9786 wrote:
All the Best People wrote:it's odd that she's in the same location as the roleplay
Glad I wasn't alone in this, but I think the likely explanation is just that the John just left the hotel room before she did, or he was in the shower.
That was my reading, but I think it's deliberately left open. The performance/reality divide is a big aspect of the series (and the reality of that profession), so I think that ambiguity is completely in line with the show's aims and concerns.

I haven't watched it since it originally streamed, but just reading of others watching it and thinking back on it makes me want to dive back in.


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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#18 Post by All the Best People » Sat Nov 18, 2017 3:50 pm

Is anyone caught up on season two? Whereas last season, Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz wrote together and alternated directing assignments on episodes, this year they've each written and directed their own seasons running in parallel. It's interesting as you can really see the difference in their approaches. Kerrigan's is an austere Antonioni-by-way-of-Ozu hybrid, with several scenes playing out in long shot (both in camera distance and scene length), whereas Seimetz's is more intimate and personal, more prone to handheld cameras than Kerrigan's stable setups. Two episodes into each, I would say I prefer Kerrigan's for the aesthetics, though his story is a political thriller where the political elements are so far rather ridiculous. Performances are strong in both stories.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#19 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:56 pm

Waiting until it’s all over to binge - but would you recommend watching them separately or in the order they’re being broadcast (one Lodge, one Amy, etc)?

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#20 Post by cantinflas » Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:05 pm

I personally think you need the juxtaposition of the two styles. It's a fascinating contrast between both form and content, but even further I'd say it's almost a relief to get to Seimetz's more intimate episodes after Kerrigan's alienating and cerebral approach.

Harmony Korine is getting strong praise for his performance.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#21 Post by All the Best People » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:09 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Waiting until it’s all over to binge - but would you recommend watching them separately or in the order they’re being broadcast (one Lodge, one Amy, etc)?
As I'm watching as they're released, I'm watching in the alternating fashion, so can't really judge. I'm not sure it will matter in the end.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#22 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:14 pm

I finished the first season of The Girlfriend Experience and was incredibly impressed by the choice to devolve our alliance down to sympathy for Keough‘s agency rather than becoming greedy and tacking on any moral justification.
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For example, the inclusion of the $500,000 inheritance subplot functions as a valid enticement, and there’s an argument for Christine ‘earning’ her place in the man’s life, but we aren’t trained by Seimetz and co. to merge our empathy with tangible financial markers of what she deserves and doesn’t deserve. Instead, we understand why she would continue to go after that money (who wouldn’t?) and we understand why the family would be sketched out and look into her (who wouldn’t?), leaving us in a position wholly devoted to compassion for the anxiety and stakes of her predicament rather than the subjective fairness of the specific issue.
To use a strange example (but one that’s intentionally an extreme deviation to make a point) in Breaking Bad we as an audience are conditioned to cheer for Walter’s superficial quests along with a personal attraction to his social predicaments. The financial gains go hand-in-hand with our compassion for his physiological turmoil, all as a package in contesting with his moral dissolve. With Christine, a much more worthy character of our admiration, but significantly one who we get to ‘know’ in depth far less, we are kept at an objective distance to divorce ourselves from stakes in judgement of the morality of the issue, and don’t necessarily care about her financial gains. Seimetz, Kerrigan, and Keough are much more interested in the alliance with social predicaments, the universality of identity-discovery, the desire to be desired, the chase for ‘more,’ for independence, self-governance in a society of professional and personal compromise.

It’s challenging to make a show where we can remain neutral to any ethical sway inherent in the actions, or indifferent to the material goals of our protagonist, but still see past them into an empathic realm of sensitivity. Did Christine make her own bed to lie in? Sure, in part, but we all do, and that can be -and is- divorced from our ability to emote for and with her, as she faces more relatable experiences pertaining to her safety (next to Unsane this really immerses the audience in the experience of stalker fear), or reputation destruction (while most of us haven’t had an event to the degree of Blindsided happen to us, who hasn’t been either subject to rumors or afraid of being exposed in a professional setting even for the most trivial act?)

Additionally, the depiction of living a double life is recognized not as devious but as natural. We all have dual lives, personal and professional, and this series merges the personal into a less socially acceptable professional one as well- though we are meant to believe that Christine is excited by this life; that it does grant her personal satisfaction. Through all the enigmatic exposure of her character (and rightfully so, I don’t need an inner monologue to be entranced by her behavioral choices and emotional consequences) there is a unity that is constantly being organically reached in joining the audience with her character. This intimacy is so impressive in its accomplishment since we are almost wholly kept at an objective distance, as Seimetz and Kerrigan find warm pockets amidst a cold, sterile milieu. Everyone involved in the making of this series validates the empowerment of exploiting gender roles for one’s own gain as a woman, using the patriarchal capitalist structure, yet this is all window dressing for identification with a person’s resilience, dignity, and humanity, specifically not contingent on (and even challenging the relationship to) socially-constructed morality.

Even if we cannot sympathize with David’s unethical behind-the-scenes dealings or inevitable losses he suffers, we can sympathize with the general position of ‘loss’ and emotional dysregulation. This only further emphasizes the sacrifice we must make in yielding rigid morality in a murky social world of clashing individual drives. Christine’s selfishness in pushing further, just like David’s or any other character, is recognized as equally fair in a western world of individualism and goal-oriented directives. In the penultimate episode, we even realize how in a family system of love and support, people interpret another’s actions based on a lens of how they affect themselves, making another’s actions always about them. Selfishness (or more appropriately, egocentrism) isn’t uniformly ‘bad,’ it’s natural; and in opposition to how we often think of the word, can co-exist with compassion as we process our thoughts and feelings on any circumstance.
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There is something both ironic and tender about Christine’s mother saying that Christine has “always been selfish” and "liked the attention," as a bad thing, when she herself just chastised Christine based on how her envisionment of her daughter’s life didn’t pan out as expected, essentially assigning her daughter’s agency as worthy based on her own perspective only. And yet, how is a mother supposed to feel? Isn’t judgement natural since we can only see through our own perspective? And isn’t love flowing when we become this upset at another person for violating our impressions of them? On the other hand, who doesn't like attention and who isn't selfish.. and aren't women intrinsically in a position of being subject to these oppressive judgments? How tragic is it that a woman is apparently not even safe from family members? Would a man be ostracized to this degree by his family for a leaked sex tape?
This is what sells the show as brilliant.. Amidst the acknowledgement of our gender-imbalanced sociopolitical context, there are also pervading roots to broader identity-formation within individualistic social contexts devoid of gender. The commonalities of imperfections, logical or emotional choices and reactions, bear the only equity that is authentic: that of consequences that are allowed to exist with meaningful personal significance, without comparison but in a vacuum of unconditionally valid experience. There is a deep humanism to this show that doesn’t discriminate or refute any perspective. All are worthy and true.
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As for the final moments, it felt intentionally ambiguous and an amalgamation of conflicting truths, which is in step with the show's thematic rhythm. Christine is alone, isolated, and there's something sad about that (she earlier declared she "had no friends" and seems to embrace this as a defense mechanism, but loneliness exists regardless). Though she's also comfortable in that state of independence and empowerment, masterbating as a coping mechanism no matter what is true or not true. Looking out over the city in a composed state, giving herself pleasure and capitalizing on her strengths and resiliences, is what she will do. Will it be a purely happy existence? No. But the show is allowed be powerfully optimistic and tragic at once, in depicting someone choosing control over vulnerability. The real question is: is it tragic to Christine, or only to those of us viewers who choose vulnerability? And if our own egocentricity is what drives that reading, her reality very well may be positive. Since we never really get to 'know' her beyond behavioral observations, we must turn inward. That ambiguity (grappling with juggling our identities, dissonance between imposed and personal moralities, social influences, goals, dreams, and personal values, etc.) we all know from our own inner conflicts, and we can sit and be sensitive to her position, even without knowing exactly what's going on in her mind, or the 'reality' of what events did or did not transpire.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#23 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Aug 03, 2020 6:22 pm

Eight episodes in to the second season, and it's very different narratively (not just in terms of the split stories but content-wise, layering macro political games with micro-sexual political ones). This season is more focused on looking for freedom within and outside systems, using sex as both a pragmatic tool and a pleasurable source for personal liberation, but overall assessed as a functional asset based on its tangibility for accessing these nebulous sources of id. Shifting power dynamics are really stressed with sex as the ultimate practice of playing games to satisfy individualized desires and needs through interpersonal exchanges. The dominant/submissive personality types altering between professional and personal lives are well-established in fleshing out complex people, again from a behaviorist objectivity. Erica in particular is a fascinating character, especially in her own judgments and musings on what is liberating for others that she cannot locate herself. Even Seimetz’ more intimate style retains that reserved introspection, despite embarking on a raw portrayal of desperation and reclamation of agency. The second series continues to emphasize a sterile separateness of people in an individualistic urban world of exchange of services, resulting in a pervasive loneliness that sex only briefly offers a reprieve from. The question of ‘what is authenticity’ in these declarations of emotion between people become practically nullified when the experience of these sexual fantasies are authentic themselves- and while I haven't finished the series, very possibly the only authentic aspects of these dynamics could be the carnal behaviorisms.

Everyone is at their best here, but Korine is perfectly eerie in his mysteriousness that he becomes an alien standing out amongst the clearly-human characters of all shapes and sizes populating both storylines.

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Re: The Girlfriend Experience

#24 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:56 pm

Aaand the second half emerges as two cryptically methodical thrillers in symbiotic rhythms. For their unique stylistic formulations, both filmmakers have similar strengths when it comes to mixing slow-burn aloof anxiety and relentlessly intense psychological flooding into an odd cocktail of scattered involvement and voyeurism, neither of which are comfortable.
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In a sense, Erica becomes the escort for the political sphere, and winds up meeting the ultimate ‘submissive’ role when reality and fantasy merge to seal her fate. This works against the separation of dominant/submissive, and personal/professional alterations that define her, and really all of our, lives in disintegrating the security that we find in compartmentalizations.

Bria’s final speech in the desert to her client on why her life went the way it did is like a thesis for the emotionally-driven choices we make in a swamp of seclusion and hopelessness. I also liked how Korine’s character was essentially a red herring (his creepy hints at becoming a child-molester never realised) and representing a vessel of false hope (in both his rich-savior role for possibly taking in Bria and as a self-help cult leader for his flock), which forces Bria back into her position of self-reliance and isolation.
Overall the second season was a welcome departure from the first season, choosing not to repeat any narrative structure (dropping us in media res) while embellishing the same broad themes. I’m glad neither Seimetz or Kerrigan are returning, since this feels like a good place to end after pushing themselves creatively around these ideas.

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