Set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial wreck and race for the White House, this film has as much to say about the shakiness of high-end professions during economic turmoil as it does about the personas all of us portray to others even as we wonder just who on Earth we are.
Sophisticated (just ask her, she’ll tell you) escort Chelsea (a.k.a. Christine) plies her trade @$2,000 a pop, but still has trouble making ends meet. To avoid the inevitable “bad” call, she insists that her clientele must not be new to the biz (knowing full well in her heart of hearts that none of the other girls could really compare: once her delights have been tasted, repeat helpings are guaranteed). Sasha Grey has the cool detachment of her character down so well that any real sexual heat never makes it to the screen, which works well for the notion of the conflicted woman searching desperately for her soulmate but robs the production of any sort of passion.
For the past 18 months, she’s had a steady, then live-in boyfriend. Chris is also a flesh worker: training men and women for $125/hour but—despite the occasional offer for a more personal exercise regimen—keeps everything on the up-and-up. He knows that his girlfriend has well-paid sleepovers, but so long as it’s just business and she doesn’t offer anything more than her considerable assets he’s fine with that. Try as he might, Chris Santos can’t find the right tone whether attempting to increase his own uncertain income by virtually blackballing the upscale gym’s owner (“You won’t even wear our T-shirt,” scolds the equally antsy manager during the give-me-a-piece-of-the-pie-or-I’ll- take-my-abs-and-customers-elsewhere scene). His trip to Las Vegas with the boys for a weekend of mayhem (while Chelsea is finally finding herself through one of her own) serves more as fodder for writers David Levien’s and Brian Koppelman’s political and economic agenda than developing the perplexed weight watcher’s character.
Rounding out the subplots are a journalist’s probing questions (most of which Chelsea prefers not to answer) and a sex critic who has designs on Chelsea’s nubile body and revenue generating abilities for his Erotic Connoisseur website. Hilariously, when a scathing review hits the Internet, a pair of rural buskers are caught singing “Everyone’s a critic.” Elsewhere on the music side of this thoughtful affair are Ross Godfrey’s perfectly discreet score and an unnamed street drummer’s solo that is at one with the heady hustle and bustle of New York City.
Lingering in the narrative weeds is the super hooker’s belief in personolgy. That you can learn to not only tell a “book” by its cover but glean the salient characteristics of another human being by interpreting every nook and cranny of their faces thrusts Chelsea into a relationship threatening rendezvous. But as gifted, she believes, as the lady of the night is in cracking façades by employing facial analysis, she seems to have forgotten that most of her own visage is as false as the financial instruments that—when knowingly implemented—brought some of the greediest amongst us to their knees. JWR