There isn’t a note of falseness anywhere in The Girlfriend Experience. Every moment is perfectly naturalistic; no actor seems to be acting. Steven Soderbergh recently said “Why do you think you can improve on what’s real?”, and you can feel that philosophy in every frame. This show never lies to you.
Riley Keough deserves a special mention as the actor at the center of it because she’s infinitely watchable while doing what often seems to be very little. It’s eerie when her character goes from her normally unemotive, taciturn self when she’s alone, to turning on the charm for a client. At one point she asks her sister, “Am I a sociopath?” At another in the same episode, a client calls her a “female Ted Bundy”. What she is, though, as a scene in the first episode shows us, is almost painfully herself at all times.
Also, I didn’t realize this until I saw it on IMDB, but she’s one of the girls in Mad Max.
This show is executive produced by Steven Soderbergh and it shows. In fact I was surprised to find that it’s not directed by him (it shares a director of photography with some of his work, Steven Meizler, though). It definitely shares his philosophy though, in that it shows us its world so nakedly that it’s riveting even when very little seems to be happening.
It uses music and camera movements in ways that are non-flashy, but at the same time create great tension. You may sometimes find yourself on the edge of your seat and not know why. Subtle pans and zooms make us feel as if something ominous is coming.
Sometimes it isn’t, sometimes it is.
The episodes are a very odd length for a drama– 27ish minutes, the last 3 being credits. It makes it very easy to devour this show in a couple days, which I did, and am now sad that there’s no more. Apparently all I can do now is watch the careers of the people involved– Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz, who wrote and alternated the directing of every episode, and Riley Keough, its centerpiece– and await the next thing they do.
I love this show. It’s not like I watch a lot of TV, so take this with a grain of salt, but for me it’s the best new show of 2016 easily.
(If you’re looking for the gallery of Riley Keough from this show, it’s right here.)