Broken Clouds 53° Good Afternoon
Broken Clouds 53° Good Afternoon

‘The Girlfriend Experience’ review: Starz series is TV’s most adult show

Kate Lyn Sheil, left, and Riley Keough, granddaughter

Kate Lyn Sheil, left, and Riley Keough, granddaughter of Elvis Presley, in Starz's "The Girlfriend Experience." Photo Credit: Starz / Kerry Hayes

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday 8-9 p.m. on Starz. (Subscribers can binge all 13 episodes on-demand.)


WHAT IT’S ABOUT So, how to define the connection between the 20-something series lead Christine (Riley Keough, who’s Elvis Presley’s granddaughter) and the middle-aged men who pay her thousands for the intimacy that the show’s title promises?

Starz press materials for this provocative (and explicit) series call it a “transactional relationship”: The men get sex and a sympathetic ear; she gets big bucks and whatever intimacy her detached disposition desires. Or maybe it’s a performance. “You can be whoever you want to be,” says her friend (Kate Lyn Sheil, “House of Cards”), already in the game when law student Christine considers playing. Its rules suit her: “I don’t like sharing my time with anyone unless I’m getting something accomplished.” One of her men grasps that later, when he asks whether Christine’s lunch-seeking legal advice is thus business. Says she, “It’s always been business.”

And not her only one. Christine remains a law intern at a high-powered firm, studying her conniving male boss (Paul Sparks, “Boardwalk Empire”) and a savvy female partner (Mary Lynn Rajskub, “24”). She’s incessantly switching gears, changing names on the fly, outfits in her car, and ambitions along the way, weaving a deepening web for her careers to collide in.

MY SAY Control is key for Christine, but also for series producer Steven Soderbergh. Like his Cinemax gem “The Knick” — for which he directed every episode (even doing camerawork) — this is a singular vision throughout, written and directed by the team of Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz. (She also plays Christine’s older sister.)

Their intense focus draws a disquieting portrait of a peculiar personality, as they piece together unadorned life snippets, snatched through doorways, partygoers and other peep-like positions. It’s eerily underscored not by music but a sort of muted electronic rumble, as if heard through an isolating bubble.

Keough’s Christine exists in her own universe. No judgment made. Her clarity reflects back onto us: the choices we make, the fulfillments we seek. How much do we reveal/withhold? How nakedly do we connect?

BOTTOM LINE It’s more than on-screen sex that makes this TV’s most adult show.

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