While This Girl's Life ultimately doesn't come together as a film, it certainly can't be faulted for not being ambitious. Writer/director Ash offers us an intriguing perspective on the porn industry, specifically a feminist one... but not the knee-jerk "porn is degrading to women" perspective, but a thoughtful "empowered women taking charge of their sexuality" perspective.
Moon (Juliette Marquis) is the central character and narrator of This Girl's Life, and we learn in short order that she's a porn star who defies the popular stereotypes: she's not a drug addict, or abused, or suffering from low self esteem, or fill in the blank. In fact, she's a professional in an occupation that she enjoys and does very well. While I don't think Marquis does anything exceptional as far as her acting performance here, it's true that she's a good match for the role, giving us the character of Moon as someone who's believable both as "sex goddess" and ordinary person (including devoted daughter).
This Girl's Life has as its main strength a quite stylish approach; it's visually interesting and well composed from the beginning. Moon's voiceover gives the film a reflective quality, and occasionally an oddly self-referential quality to the film as well, though that's not picked up on as much as it could have been. Thematically, the film has something to offer as well; I found it refreshing that it offers us female empowerment and full acceptance of a woman's sexuality and desire, in a matter-of-fact way. It's from that starting point (one that we'd take for granted if Moon were a man, but that is more exceptional since she's a woman) that we're given an exploration of her choices as a fully sexual being.
Where the film stumbles is not in how it presents its material, since that's done quite deftly, but rather in the material itself, or to be more accurate, the lack of it. It's never quite clear where This Girl's Life is going, or in fact if it plans on going anywhere at all. The first half of the film feels rather aimless, following Moon around as she gives us an indication of what life and work are like for an Internet porn star; certainly there are some interesting moments here, but it's not long before I started to wonder what the point was. Later, the focus seems to shift somewhat to Moon's relationships, whether with her father (James Woods), who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, her female friends, or her potential boyfriend who is both fascinated and put off by her line of work. Even then, though, This Girl's Life feels like a compilation of vignettes rather than a cohesive film. To a certain extent, by the end of the film Moon seems to be pushed by circumstances to make some choices about her priorities in life and where she wants to go in the future, but it has a very vague feel to it; there's never a particularly strong narrative push in the film, and that's really what keeps This Girl's Life from succeeding as anything more than a "slice of life."
It's worth noting that This Girl's Life apparently has been released in both an R-rated and an unrated version. This review is of the R-rated version.
This Girl's Life appears in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer at the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. I've given it an average mark, indicating that this is a fairly average, run-of-the-mill transfer, with no particular problems but also nothing that makes it particularly good, either. The picture is clean but rather soft, and offers a watchable image. English subtitles are available.I've subsequently been informed (but have not personally confirmed) that while the copies sent out for review were widescreen, the DVDs being sold are actually "full screen." I don't have any further details, and I don't even know if this means that they're pan-and-scan or open-matte. Caveat emptor (and consider this another good reason to rent rather than buy).
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is acceptable but could have been better. The various sound elements (music, dialogue) aren't perfectly balanced, so at times the dialogue isn't distinct enough from the rest of the track. Overall, it tends to be a bit flat-sounding, but as with the video transfer, there aren't any real problems here.
Two interesting interview segments are included in the special features section: ten minutes each with actresses Juliette Marquis and Rosario Dawson. We get to hear about their backgrounds and some insights into the film. There's also a short public service announcement about Parkinson's Disease, and trailers for Virgin, The Last Horror Movie, and Gypsy 83.
Stylish but lacking in the content department, This Girl's Life does offer an intriguing look at the world of porn from the perspective of a well-balanced, thoughtful young woman. I wouldn't rush out to buy this DVD, especially considering the confusion regarding the aspect ratio (see above), but if you find the topic interesting, it's probably a good rental choice. Rent it.