Director Armen Antranikian’s The Girlfriend Game confidently bills itself as an erotic thriller. And, while that genre designation may elicit gratuitous eyebrow-raising and cheeky smirks, I must say it’s a fitting description. This film is indeed a tense and sexy cinematic showcase. As we sit on the precipice of Valentine’s Day—the greeting card industry’s clever way to get us to buy anecdotal card stock and heart-shaped boxes full of candy—what better way to celebrate than with a highly polished relationship thriller about a man and woman who play increasingly complex mind games with others, and eventually, themselves?
If you ignore the film’s sexy sheen (and yeah, I know, that’s hard), really, at its core this is a story about escalation and addiction. Almost like prototypical drug users, our two protagonists start out recreationally—experimenting with an “innocent” situation where they manipulate others for cheap thrills. But, then, as one would expect, they start to fall slowly down the rabbit hole of their own gratification, ultimately revealing more about themselves and their relationship than they ever expected. What was once a quirk—a mild source of amusement—is now on its way to becoming a full-on lifestyle choice. Then, the film ends, leaving these characters as they dawn on this realization. For better or worse, a whole new world has just been opened.
Based on a short story from novelist and tv writer Nick Antosca, Antranikian was introduced to the source material by his lead actress, Sophie Kargman. After he read the story, Antranikian immediately wanted to make the short film adaptation. From then on, there was no turning back. Antranikian assembled his cast and crew, including cinematographer Christian Spenger and composer Daniel Hart (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints). The result is a very slick final product, featuring stunning lighting and a driving, atmospheric score. The LA nightscape—from the hip bars to the dreamlike Hollywood Hills—is a central component to the film (ironic as the original short story is set in New York). Obviously, LA has been the centerpiece of many a Hollywood production. Here, in a sense, it feels like an extra character—a beautiful and sinister companion to our morally volatile protagonists.
The Girlfriend Game is an intoxicating film—as much about sex as it is about addiction (though, I’m guessing your average online viewer will probably focus on the former). Regardless, whatever you take away from the short in terms of themes, I can almost guarantee you’ll be entertained while going along for the ride.
For those intrigued by the film’s score, composer Daniel Hart is releasing a companion album in conjunction with the film. Check it out.