The film's title doesn't refer to the temporary female companionship that Chelsea's socially and sexually dissatisfied customers purchase from her, but to the commitment she craves in an after hours living partner. She seems to have found that in Chris, a personal trainer who accepts Chelsea's offbeat profession, but that soon falls into jeopardy when Chelsea decides to go on a weekend trip with a client who matches up well with her beliefs in Personology ("it's NOT astrology!", she corrects her friend... um, ok). Chris doesn't approve of her overtime ("we agreed on no out-of-town jobs!"), but Chelsea lets her voodoo beliefs drive her decision making anyway. Soderbergh ends the film in a fashion that film-journo types might call "artistic", but I think he just didn't know how to end it.
When I first heard of Soderbergh casting the young (and veteran... sad how the Adult industry works) porn star Sasha Grey in a mainstream film, I was intrigued. This wasn't just a cameo for the perverts in the theater to wink at, no, this was a film that was going to revolve around a frequently fu*ked actress. But after seeing The Girlfriend Experience, I was scratching my head as to why Soderbergh felt he needed Grey. Sasha Grey is a beautiful woman: her porcelain jaw curls around her chin, up to a pair of perfect lips that lead to a nubile nose, while her eyes, like arrows, piercing and dark, are given complete power by the heavy and bold brows that hang above.
But Soderbergh and, er, "Peter Andrews", confoundedly ignore the character in Grey's mug. Outside of an often used over-the-seat close-up of Chelsea's face, Soderbergh routinely shoots her from a distance, from behind, and - in a extended climactic scene - fully hidden behind couch cushions. Further, none of the confidence and dominance that that Sasha Grey exudes in her porn performances is given a chance to play out here in a safer setting. My suspicion is that Grey could be a fine mainstream actress, but The Girlfriend Experience is not the place to test that hunch. Soderbergh constrains her, puts limits on her exuberance, and ultimately makes Sasha Grey out to be more of a doll and sex toy than in her adult films.
Based on its intentions, Soderbergh's film should be renamed "The Pornstar Experiment", because, frankly, the casual offhand casting of Sasha Grey comes off as mere exploitative stunt, more so than any DP scene she might have filmed.