The Girl Next Door

 
Laura Clifford 
Robin Clifford 


When Tulsa native Stacy Baker's abusive husband fantasized about seeing his wife's picture published in a skin mag, she indulged him and entered a contest.  What she discovered after that experience and the Mexican group photo shoot she was awarded for winning was that she liked the attention, so she ditched her life in Oklahoma (including her husband), moved to Hollywood and reincarnated herself as porn star Stacy Valentine in PBS filmmaker Christine Fugate's "The Girl Next Door."

Laura:
"The Girl Next Door" is a rather ironic title.  While Stacy Baker may been one, she seems to have ceased to exist once she took on the Valentine moniker.  Stacy claims that people shouldn't get into 'the industry' for the money because if they don't love sex it will be apparent on screen. Yet later on, we witness Stacy wallowing in cash after sleeping with a 'fan' in Cannes who clearly repulsed her.  These kind of dichotomies recur throughout this documentary and Fugate ("Mother Love") wisely lets us form our own opinions.

This is an eye-opening look into the porn industry of today - antiseptic, internet broadcast and surprisingly well self-regulated - none of the drugs which were front and center in the fictional "Boogie Nights," all of the raunchy detail and little of the humor of "Orgazmo."  Women are the more highly paid performers with rates established by the extremity of the acts they're willing to participate in.  Men are kept around for their body types and are backed up by stunt men if they're unable to perform.

We follow Stacy through a romantic arc in the film.  Initially she claims not to date stating 'If I'm horny, I go to work.  If I need affection, I have my cats.'  Soon she's hooked up with Julian, however, a colleague who she doesn't work with.  He complains that her work comes before he does and we see that he's right - the relationship crumbles when he shares a workday with her and observes her with another 'actor.'

We also follow Stacy into surgery for her various body enhancements, always accompanied by liposuction.  These scenes aren't for the faint of heart. The end result is a completely unnatural body type that's just plain alien looking - even Stacy admits this.  We're also exposed to a convention, where her fans include a woman whose *dad* bought her one of Stacy's videos to masturbate with, a visit to her home town and weirdly accepting mom and stepdad (in the most hilarious Tulsa scene, an old chum asks how's she's supposed to react to Stacy's joyful news that she's experienced her first DP), and the adult film awards where fourteen nominees represent a smaller percentage of total performances in the adult industry than Oscar's five in the mainstream.

Technically, the film is first rate, barring a somewhat obvious 'shot on video' look (not unlike that of its subject matter).  "The Girl Next Door" exemplifies what the documentary form is all about.  Expertly structured (editor Kate Amend's work includes the Oscar winning doc, "The Long Way Home"), this is a fascinating journey into a world that few of us will ever witness up close, a world where 'being a trouper' is engaging in a sex act by a swimming pool with an ant problem.

A-

Robin:
The adult entertainment business, known to most of us as the porno industry, has gone through some hard lumps over the past couple of decades. The advent of amateur video and AIDS devastated the professional X-rated film business to the point where it nearly ceased to exist. But, free enterprise has a way of keeping money making alive and professional adult porno, bloody but unbowed, made a resurgence in the 90's. Documentary filmmaker Christine Fugate spent two years following the career of one of the modern day porn queens for a candid look into the business and what it does to its players in "The Girl Next Door."

Stacy Valentine (nee Baker) is a voluptuous 26-year-old who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Midwest-raised Stacy married young and, at the urging of her then-husband who thought the idea "hot," submitted her photo to Hustler magazine. Her acceptance by Larry Flynt's soft-core rag led to other opportunities for the ingenue in the adult sex business. She also dumped her husband. Now, under the unrelenting eye of director Fugate's camera, Stacy bares all, in many more ways than you might expect, in "The Girl Next Door."

Helmer/creator Fugate puts together one of the most interesting, eye opening documentaries I have seen in years. The filmmaker has selected a subject matter that, in the past, has been the realm of male filmmakers. Her handling of the film and the obvious dedication to the project, and to Stacy, are done with an honesty and a take-no-prisoners frankness that could only be accomplished by a female maker. The decidedly female perspective of "The Girl Next Door" removes the voyeuristic misogyny a guy would have given the film and provides a fresh, sometimes shocking, look into a different, little seen world.

Stacy Valentine is a fascinating subject. Vivaciously built, she exudes her augmented sexuality with an almost casual ease as she unabashedly tells her story and feelings to the camera - sometimes while wearing just a smile. Stacy is an excellent subject person as she allows Fugate to chronicle virtually all aspects of the sex star's life. Fugate's camera is right there as Valentine performs her "acting" job before the pornographers' lenses, discreetly allowing us to see the porno queen in action. We're also right up front as Stacy undergoes breast reduction surgery and liposuction - and I mean right there. We see the doctors vacuum out the fat, remove the E-cup breast implants and install the "smaller" D-cup silicon bags. Be warned that these scenes are not for those with a frail constitution.

We learn of the life of a porno actor through the eyes of Stacy. Like any young woman, she is concerned about her career, her future, her love life and her ambitions. We see the frustration and depression as Stacy is overlooked by her industry when the Annual Adult News Awards as given and the elation when the French counterpart, Le Hot D'Or Awards Festival, honors her as their choice for best actress.

Sex, of course, is a major topic of discussion and display in "The Girl Next Door." Stacy candidly explains, early in the film, that she loves sex and is good at it. She blithely discusses the pay scale earned by performing different sex acts - X dollars for felatio, Y dollar for the missionary position, etc. Stacy tosses of, at one point, that she has to prepare herself for a scene in a film where she performs a DP (double penetration). Like it or not, you learn the lingo of the business as you watch "The Girl Next Door."

As the film progresses, Stacy shows less and less enthusiasm for her chosen career, declaring that she will give it up to become a makeup artist. Toward the film's end, she says that she should give up sex with men completely and just find herself a girlfriend. Her bouts with self-image problems lead the starlet to seek help from a hypnotherapist. Another time, fed up with the business and with men, Stacy decides that if men want sex from her, "they're gonna have to pay." Self-esteem takes a real beating for the players in today's porn business if "The Girl Next Door" is any indication.

Christine Fugate and her subject Stacy Valentine have come up with an honest, shocking and poignant look into the hardcore porn industry through the eyes of "The Girl Next Door." I give it an A-.


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