It's hilarious, embarrassing, grim, deeply disturbing, cynical, touching, clinical and creepily locker-room-intimate, all at the same time.
There will be those people who can't make it past the low budget vibe that (admittedly) permeates the whole movie, but anyone who criticizes its occasionally stilted acting (and it's an easy target) misses the point: it's PROSTITUTION. Which is to say that paid sex is possibly the root source of all bad acting. Even having said that, the performances are deceptively understated in their squirmy, quasi-nude ease.
The characters of Lucy and Dawn especially, are horrifically too-true. I walked around mimicking Lucy's idiotic "What's new and different?" for weeks. Dawn's gum-snapping hostility, and her impromptu James Brown imitation ("Good God, Mollie- you're a whoooore!") are as grating as they are winning. Singling these two actresses out is unfair though; their characters are especially dynamic, given that they're essentially opposing ends of the same spectrum of self absorption.
Even the least likely supporting roles are realized with unexpected complexity. Witness Lucy, the house's madam, reprimanding Mary, a mousy new 'girl' for her unappealing wardrobe choice on her first night on the job. When Lucy reminds her condescendingly that she is to dress as though she "just came from lunch with her mother, and is on her way to meet her boyfriend for drinks", Mary replies in a small voice, with a discomfiting mixture of stubborness and shame, "This is what I wore."
Possibly the most remarkable aspect of this movie is the realization that prostitution, at least at this elevated level (the 'girls' work in a clean, modern apartment, and schedule 'appointments' through phone ads listed mostly in upscale skin magazines) is just another daily grind, a job, plain and simple. Ellen McElduff's Lucy is every thoughtless, self-absorbed boss you've ever wanted to throttle; the difference is that she's seen you naked, and can talk about your sex life with no legal repercussions.
That's glib, of course; each of the 'girls' is seen to struggle with the work, and what it means in a larger sense, politically and personally. Finally though, just as it seems uncompromisingly grim, the film sneaks in a remarkable twist. It's essential to watch to the very end of the closing credits though, or you might miss a moment that offers a lovely moment of reassurance, and tender domesticity.