Our first impressions of Stan’s new drama The Girlfriend Experience

In case you were wondering, the sex really starts in the second episode. But if money is more your thing, you’ll be aroused in the first minute.

Christine (Riley Keough) joins her friend Avery (Kate Lyn Sheil) in a hotel room where the oldest transaction has just taken place. The john has departed (in a good way) and left them carte blanche for room service. They order the two most expensive bottles available, and some french-fries.

Right away we know: here are two young people negotiating their place in a big, expensive city. One thing this show has in common with the 2009 movie, on which it’s based, is a graphite minimalism. That’s on the surface – ascetic editing, big 30th floor windows, feature walls in low-lit restaurants – as well as the narrative.

By the way, I can’t think of another TV drama with half-hour episodes. Despite a few funny-ish moments, no one would ever mistake this for a sitcom. It proves, so far, that a lot can be done within that time.   

In the first episode, you forget about prostitution altogether. We follow Christine trying to get an internship at a law firm, studying, struggling to pay rent. What’s revealed by those tasks is her ability to pretend and improvise. When she does reach her titular destiny, that facade stumbles a little, though she’s only a gulp of wine away.

We find that out in the second episode. We also see that Christine, now aka Chelsea, has quite a business acumen. Avery introduces her to agent/madam, Jacqueline (Alexandra Castillo), who ensures the girls can be highly selective and very expensive. They set up a website, some clients – it all seems to be going well. Except that Jacqueline’s cut is a little big for Christine’s liking.

It’s like she doesn’t want to be subordinate to anyone. When her new boss, David (Paul Sparks), reprimands her for spending too much time on a cease-and-desist letter, she’s nowhere near apologetic. Later, she makes gentle jabs at his organisational skills. She is not a nervous little intern, or doesn’t want to be seen that way.

There’s something else between them. What is it? He’s handsome, so is it love blooming? Does she aspire for his success? Or is she gold-digging? Is it really all about the money?

So much is unsaid, which is good so far. Keough, for her part, is gifted with just her eyes. They operate in two modes: one is a quick study, the other an alluring shell. But the shell has to crack sometime, that’s how we know what’s at stake.

The first season of The Girlfriend Experience is available exclusively in Australia through Stan. The full first season launches on April 11th.


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