Posted May 21, 2009 in Film

After the two-film behemoth of Che, Steven Soderbergh’s streamlined latest casts an interviewer as an interviewer (Mark Jacobson), a personal trainer as a personal trainer (Chris Santos) and a sex worker as a sex worker (Sasha Grey); and the finished film still rings false. Grey, a thinking-man’s porn starlet who has acheived Dream Girl status by (a) claiming to be so hyper-literate her name is a nod to Oscar Wilde and (b) doing everything, here plays a high-end hooker named Chelsea trying to build up her business in during the early days of the October ’08 economic collapse. The film’s wryest scenes come during dry meetings about how to increase her webhits and raise her profile and price point. There’s a dullness that plays against the titillation we’re expecting (and never see)—and oddly, that dullness works to Grey’s favor as the 2008 AVN winner for Best Oral Sex Scene can’t act a lick. She’s not having any fun here—her most emotive tic is a half smile she hides behind like a wall. When we’re asked to care about her failing relationship with Santos, we’d rather hear her demand her web tech to rank her higher on Google. The film’s nastiest and best scene comes when Grey visits a chubby porn czar (Glenny Kenny) who successfully uses his reviewing site to score a freebie. We never see his vile character again, but when he pops up in a voice over lambasting Chelsea for being flat, affectless and boring, we burst into vindicated giggles, even as we make a mental note not to let Soderbergh’s pass off his last ditch "I meant to do that!" excuse as a deliberate choice to explain Grey’s disaffected performance.


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