I’ve never actually seen a porn movie in an adult movie theater. Yet, sitting in the dark at 11:30 PM with five other guys waiting for Christine Fugate’s biopic of adult video superstar Stacy Valentine sure seemed to bear a passing resemblance to that seedy activity. Trudging out of the theater after the screening also left me with the same slightly greasy, vaguely depressed feeling I’d expect to have when leaving a rundown XXX palace.
“The Girl Next Door” is but the latest in the recent, bizarre glut of porn star documentaries…as if we needed further evidence that sex sells in the movies. Stacy Baker’s story is nearly as cliched as the plot of one of her alter ego Stacy Valentine’s films. An adopted only child from Tulsa, Oklahoma with a frightening, occasionally abusive father, the prom queen-pretty loner married a typical local brute whose demeanor closely mimicked Stacy’s father. Though raised to be a housewife, the naive young bride’s life changed forever when her husband sent nude pictures of her to a “Hustler” magazine amateur photo contest. She won, participated in a photo shoot with an anonymous hunk, and left her dishrags in Oklahoma for good. Now one of the top stars in the industry, the lonely, (often) surgically enhanced beauty finds herself still looking for love and looking beyond her numbered remaining days as an adult movie superstar.
There are any number of memorable moments here, not counting the abundance of casual, yet still staggering glimpses of nudity sprinkled throughout. There’s the obligatory Super 8 shots of Stacy as a cute kid and Stacy’s high school yearbook pictures. Fugate also, er, lays bare the grim, slightly tawdry atmosphere of a hardcore film set, along with its cruelly straightforward pay scale. (Essentially, the amount an actress earns rises in direct proportion to the frequency and/or unconventional nature of sex an actress agrees to perform in a picture.) She also shows us the physical price Stacy pays in the form of truly not-for-the-squeamish scenes of Stacy under the plastic surgeon’s scalpel. Mom and Stacy’s stepfather put in relentlessly supporting appearances and Fugate even manages to work in a romantic subplot between Stacy and Julian, a male porn star who’s Stacy’s occasional boyfriend. That Stacy sleeps alone while in Las Vegas for the adult video industry’s version of the Academy Awards is as ironic as it is poignant.
Even so, “The Girl Next Door” is an odd film in that its sum is somewhat less than its parts. There’s very little in Fugate’s film that will surprise today’s viewers. This dearth of any major revelations, combined with the fact that Stacy really does seem surprisingly normal in spite of the highly unconventional environment in which she lives and works, has the perverse effect of making “The Girl Next Door” seem like, well, a documentary about the girl next door. It’s fortunate for Stacy Valentine that she’s been able to acclimate to her chosen profession so well that she makes it seem matter-of-fact and humdrum. Humdrum is never a positive description of any film, however, let alone a film with such inherently exploitable elements as this one. – Merle Bertrand