Judge Patrick Bromley has a strange desire to be neighborly after watching this documentary about the sad life of a pornstar with a heart of gold.
From housewife to porn star.
Somewhat early on in my days here at the Verdict, I reviewed Luke Greenfield's The Girl Next Door, a teen-comedy update about a porn star. So, naturally when the opportunity to arose to watch and review Christine Fugate's documentary Girl Next Door (appearing onscreen and in the cover art as The Girl Next Door), a documentary about—surprise! A porn star—I jumped at the chance. The similarity between the two titles is merely coincidence (and, to be fair, the documentary pre-dates Greenfield's film by nearly 5 years), though it does suggest that every neighbor I've ever had is in the adult film industry. Which reminds me…I need to borrow a cup of sugar.
At any rate, here's Fugate's Girl Next Door, which chronicles roughly two years in the life and career of adult film star Stacy Valentine. During her four years in the industry, Valentine starred in no less than 69 films (this according to the Internet Database); many have titles that can't be reprinted here, but among them are New Wave Hookers 5 (in which she is credited with playing New Wave Hooker #2) and I Love Lesbians 3. A native of Oklahoma, Valentine (born Stacy Baker) was actually pushed into porn by a controlling husband, who later resented her for it and ultimately split. Valentine, on the other hand, quickly became one of the superstars of the industry as a result of her strict worth ethic, drive, and apparent willingness to do just about anything (one sequence finds her sweeping away a colony of fire ants so that she can continue with an outdoor sex scene). The film contrasts this professional Valentine with the personal one—a sad, lonely, and insecure girl who can't seem to find happiness, and who still can't trust people enough to find love.
All of this sounds like the film exists so that we might feel sorry for Stacy Valentine. It doesn't. It's a difficult thing to evaluate a movie like Girl Next Door without falling into the trap of evaluating its subject, but it would be unfair to use the review format to condemn Valentine's choices or her lifestyle; that's not my job. My feelings about pornography (be they pro or con) shouldn't be taken into consideration when trying to decide whether or not Fugate's film works or doesn't work. She has made a good movie—a sad and honest movie—about one individual personality. Valentine comes off as guarded, insecure, sweet, driven, and genuinely good—though perhaps a bit confused (she eventually distances herself from sex so much that she begins essentially prostituting herself). She loves her mom and tries to make a relationship with her boyfriend (another adult film star who goes only by the name "Julian") work, but has an inherent distrust of just about everyone (except her mother; in one particularly sad scene, she realizes in an instant that her mother is the only person that ever really loved her) in her life. The reason for this is never really explored, though some mentions of her father provide the few points where the film comes dangerously close to finger pointing. She doesn't live the life of drugs, parties, and constant near-anonymous sex that the public often equates with adult film stars (a perception that many of those stars—even those included in this movie—help to perpetuate). Scene after scene, we watch Valentine going home to her cats or returning to her hotel room alone. We like Stacy Valentine and, watching the movie, want her to be happy. It's too bad that she doesn't seem to feel the same way.
The DVD for Girl Next Door packages a decent presentation of the film with some so-so extras. Because the film was shot on what is essentially consumer-grade video, it has that look—there is some inconsistency in the quality of the picture and sound, but the image and the audio are passable overall. The special features section supplies us with a 10 minute video interview with Stacy Valentine during her "retirement" party in 2000; it's interesting how saddened she is by the whole thing, while we (the viewers) can't help but feel that she can't get out of the business quick enough—it's the only way she stands a chance. Also included are some deleted scenes that provide some additional bits of business and extra interview footage; a collection of news pieces on the movie that ran during its release; the original theatrical trailer and a "cleaned up" TV spot. Several bonus trailers for other Indican releases are also included.
Documentaries are no stranger to porn; in recent years, we've had Sex: The Annabel Chong Story, Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, Inside Deep Throat, and the Showtime series Family Business. All of these works attempt to better understand the individuals who work in the porn industry—the psychology, the economics, the what have you. Girl Next Door isn't much different, and yet it is. The agenda here doesn't seem to be gaining an "understanding" of Valentine or why she chooses this career (though at one point, Fugate flat-out asks if it's a result of childhood trauma or abuse); instead, the movie simply wants to introduce us to Valentine and let us listen to her. That's all she needs—someone to listen, not judge, and to make her feel like she's someone worth caring about. Girl Next Door does that.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Indican Pictures
• Featurette: "Stacy's Retirement Party"
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