Unstreamable is a column where Jas Keimig and Chase Burns recommend movies and TV shows you can’t watch on major streaming services in the United States. We publish every Wednesday.
JAS: Have you seen the new trailer for the final installment of Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike trilogy? Go watch–it looks great. It reminded me of another great (and unstreamable) Soderbergh film, The Girlfriend Experience. It’s a perfectly moody reflection on the 2008 stock market collapse and stars none other than famous adult film star Sasha Grey. A total gem of late 2000s culture. Speaking of…
CHASE: We’ve written this column for a few years now, and it needs a little SHAKE-UP every so often. Lately, we’ve been trying to highlight unstreamable films screening at local indie theaters (like Alma’s Rainbow at NWFF) or related to new movies currently in theaters (like Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, featured in Tár). And look, I’m sorry for doing this next one, but considering “TRUMP ANNOUNCES 2024 RUN” is above-the-fold news this morning, I’m highlighting The Apprentice this week. Yes, it’s technically* unstreamable. And yes, I own it on DVD. I’m doubly sorry.
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USA, 2009, 71 min, Dir. Steven Soderbergh
It’s the lead-up to the 2008 election and Chelsea’s clients are tired. As a high-end escort, she works with men who fret over the stock market collapse. Men who advise her to invest in gold. Men who can pay her $2,000 an hour for a “girlfriend experience.” And at the end of each day, Sasha Grey’s Chelsea sheds her alias to become Christine, a woman who lives with her personal trainer boyfriend. They both service the same sort of men but in different capacities and contexts, working for themselves amidst the financial downturn.
In Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, characters dress in expensive clothing and talk at low volumes against swanky backdrops. The sex is implied, never explicit. Soderbergh is more interested in the emotional experience Chelsea gives her clients, the 2008 financial collapse, and money worries rather than the fucking itself. The Girlfriend Experience is also Grey’s–a former adult film star and 2000s icon–first mainstream picture. In the role, she’s appropriately enigmatic and embodies the understated cool that normally pulses through Soderbergh’s movies as she navigates client relationships.
Produced for $1.3 million, Soderbergh shot the movie over 16 days in the fall of 2008 with a small, lean crew and mostly non-professional cast in Manhattan. It premiered on an early version of Amazon Prime Video the following year, but has since disappeared from the platform. Soderbergh retooled the premise for a 2016 Starz TV show of the same name, which he continues to executive produce. The film, however, is a wonderful nugget of late ‘00s anxiety of the millennium to come–our money problems only get worse. JAS KEIMIG
Find it in the Director section under Soderbergh, Steven.
USA, 2004-2017, 60 min episodes
Donald Trump announced his third presidential run the other night, instigating another long week for the nation’s therapists. It’s worth remembering, I guess, that shortly after Trump announced his first presidential run back in 2015, NBC said “you’re fired” to him, ending his 14-season run as the network’s fire-er-in-chief on its hit reality TV series The Apprentice.
There’s not much of a reason to revisit most of that show—but its first season, which aired on NBC in 2004, has some insights into America’s twice-impeached former president currently running to be the next president. I don’t think it’s crazy to say there’d be no President Trump without The Apprentice’s Trump (and producer Mark Burnett is due for a long conversation at the pearly gates for his part in promoting Trump’s con throughout the 2000s).
Trump’s lawless behavior was clear from the jump. Contestants claimed he often asked male contestants if they would have sex with the show’s female contestants, and the show encouraged him to act like a rapist dictator. Take its promo song, “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” which featured clips of Trump promising, “This is a dictatorship, and I’m the dictator. There’s no voting. There’s no jury.” Rewatching this thing underscores how men in media enabled and created Trump’s brand for decades, but it’s also like micro-dosing hell. So, not exactly a recommendation. CHASE BURNS
Find it at Scarecrow in the “Psycho-Sleeves” section under Reality TV. In years past, you’ve been able to find it on Tubi, but it looks like it’s currently unavailable.
Looking for more? Browse our big list of 350+ hard-to-find movies over on The Stranger.
*The fine print: Unstreamable means we couldn’t find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, Disney+, or any of the other hundreds of streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn’t find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don’t consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.