There’s a plethora of on demand video
out there these days. So much so that sometimes it can be hard to wade
through it all and find something worth watching. Watch This Now is
your guide to instant video on Netflix, Hulu and elsewhere,
highlighting the very best stuff that you can watch right now.

I’m breaking two loose Watch This Now rules with this entry, but I think you’ll agree there’s reason to. Usually we try to highlight stuff that (a) is free and (b) we’ve seen and can recommend from an informed position, and (for me) this film kills both guidelines.

While Steven Soderbergh’s film The Girlfriend Experience opens in a limited run on May 22, it has already premiered On Demand. In addition, it has hit a couple other digital download platforms. I rented the film this morning to watch (and review) tonight, but in the meantime I’ll re-run some of Devin’s Sundance review to set the mood.

Under all the other layers, The Girlfriend Experience
is almost totally about Hollywood. Chelsea’s client base is filled with
people in movies and TV, and the guy who wants to bring her away for
the weekend and with whom she feels an unusual connection is a
screenwriter. Soderbergh even casts Glenn Kenny, film critic, as the
Erotic Connoisseur, an internet escort critic (and kudos to Kenny, who
plays gross, sleazy and deeply creepy with immaculate perfection). I
don’t know that there’s a point for comparison between Chelsea and an
indie director (although there’s a lot that I could point out, some of
which would be spoilers), but she’s definitely navigating a
metaphorical version of Hollywood.


Sasha Grey’s performance is
interesting. At one point the Erotic Connoisseur writes a review of her
where he talks about her affectless blankness, and that does describe
the way Grey plays Chelsea. But then Chelsea is a hugely guarded
person, hiding her real self not just when she’s with her clients, but
seemingly in all other parts of her life. That mask only slips a few
times, and in those short moments of vulnerability Gray is almost
sublime. I’m still torn about whether the ‘affectless’ comment was
inserted to make an acting problem into a character problem – there are
a number of moments of voice over where Gray flubs a line and then just
starts it over again, which indicates that it’s this roughness and
amateur quality that Soderbergh is seeking – but in those scenes of
vulnerability there’s no question that something real is happening on
screen.


Xbox Live users can rent the film (in standard definition and HD) and Amazon on Demand is carrying it as well. The rental fee is about ten bucks regardless of the platform, but that’s an acceptable rate to catch Soderbergh’s new film weeks before it hits theatres, especially if you live away from cities that are likely to get a theatrical engagement.