If not exactly escorts in the modern sense, Geishas must have been closer to what the Victorians used to refer to as actresses.
Human specimens hand-raised to become walking erotic artworks, their's was more of a destiny than a lifestyle, where the ideal outcome was to become a dazzling masculine trophy. For their side of the bargain they offered tea, dancing, sex (consensual) and a good deal of twanging on that instrument of theirs. The problem is, none of the men in this story appear to be worth all the trouble.
The movie drags even more than Arthur Golden's bestselling novel. The essential achievement of the book was to make the sentimental lives of these women accessible to the modern westerner by showing us the seething rivalry, and in the case of Siyuri, the Geisha with the memoirs, something that near enough approximates to romance (even if it does kick-off with a pre-pubescent girl fantasising over a middle-aged businessman.)
The effect of the cast woodenly reciting their lines in their imperfect English is to make the whole thing even more middlebrow than it would otherwise have been. The cataclysm of WWII has been skipped over, and a standard Hollywood ending has been fashioned.
Zang Ziyi's acting and dancing skills are once again there for all to see, but somehow her beauty doesn't quite shine through the limitations of the production as it has before. Michelle Yeoh is radiant though. Not being Japanese is less of a handicap for her.