Review: ‘The Girlfriend Experience’

The Girlfriend Experience” is a show about selling flesh, but its true fetish is for glass.

Set in the law offices, restaurants and pricey hotels of Chicago, this half-hour drama is in love, or lust, with glass-walled dining rooms, translucent office partitions, shimmering skyscraper exteriors. It relishes the gleaming curve of fine stemware; there are more crystal goblets filled with red wine than on “The Good Wife,” “Scandal” and the fourth hour of “Today” put together

That aesthetic — seductive and cool and expensive — captures both the tone and the subject of this icy but intriguing limited series, beginning on Sunday on Starz, about a law student who becomes an elite prostitute. (The full 13-episode series will be available to subscribers the same day, online and on demand.)

“The Girlfriend Experience” is “suggested by” the 2009 Steven Soderbergh film of the same title, but although Mr. Soderbergh is an executive producer, it’s no remake. Mr. Soderbergh’s slice of life was set amid the financial collapse of 2008, with the porn star Sasha Grey as an escort contemplating the next stage of her career. It was a moody, flat-affect film about money having its way even as money was losing its way.

For TV, Mr. Soderbergh handed off the title to the indie filmmakers Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz, who shared writing and directing duties. They’ve kept some of the art house sensibility but reconceived the story as a business-of-pleasure bildungsroman.

Christine Reade, played by Riley Keough (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), starts an internship at a law firm, where she’s quickly caught up in office politics involving two ambitious partners, David (Paul Sparks, “Boardwalk Empire”) and Erin (Mary Lynn Rajskub, “24”). Her law school friend Avery (Kate Lyn Sheil) has taken an alternative career track in the sex trade, specializing in a “girlfriend experience” or “GFE”— the temporary, bespoke semblance of a relationship.

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