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The Girl Next Door (2000)
The Girl Next Door, a documentary about adult film actress Stacy Valentine (nee Baker), could have been subtitled "The Loneliness of a Porn Star." The film's ads hype the "...from housewife to porn star" connection, but that aspect of the film how she became a porn star takes five minutes of screentime. Oklahoma housewife in abusive relationship; husband, porn-fiend, urges her to pose nude for a magazine's amateur contest so he can show friends. This leads to photo-shoot in Mexico, which she loves. Returning with a new sense of confidence, she spies husband in the airport angry, arms crossed and winds up divorcing him and moving to California, where she becomes Stacy Valentine, porn star. All that happened in 1995. Since then she's appeared in over 50 adult films.
Now she's allowed documentary filmmaker Christine Fugate intimate access into her life. We see her moving from an apartment to a house, filming porn scenes, getting in and out (and in and out) of a relationship with Julian, a fellow porn star. Perhaps most incredibly (certainly most indelibly), we're taken into the operating room during Valentine's cosmetic surgery. There's a painful, sawing motion to liposuction which I hadn't expected. Valentine also has her voluminous breast implants exchanged for smaller models, and it's haunting, seeing the larger implants removed through a hole in her breast until they deflate. You wonder what we're doing to ourselves.
Yet despite the often mechanized process of becoming Stacy Valentine, director Fugate, to her credit, never loses sight of the human being, which is why The Girl Next Door is so effective. Valentine is as candid and unaffected with the camera as she is with herself, which is to say, not completely but we can tell when she isn't. As the film progresses, and Valentine becomes more famous, winning the 1998 "Best American Starlet" at the Hot D'Or Awards at Cannes, and then signing an exclusive deal with VCA, one of the big adult film studios, she retreats further within herself. Her voice gets smaller. Her life becomes lonelier. She relies more on her cats. She has the hair and the boobs and the bod, and she has always professed a love for sex, but near the end of the film she seems weary of it all, and laments the fact that no one touches her anymore without sex on their mind. On one level this is absurd but it still rings true. Her job has become her life, and that's killing for anyone.
A heartbreaking moment occurs when she visits her mother and step-father in Oklahoma. At the breakfast table, her mother tells her how much she loves her and they embrace, and Valentine's face becomes red and pained. It's this girl, Stacy Baker, mother's daughter, the girl next door, that no one seems to see anymore. Fugate does.
September 10, 2000
© 2000 Erik Lundegaard