Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

17 March 2008

The Girl Next Door, dir. Christine Fugate (1999)

NIKKI says:
Having seen several documentaries about adult film stars or the industry in general, I had certain expectations about this one. I was expecting a tragic tale of a woman scorned by porn, adding Stacy Valentine's name to that growing list of such actresses: Bella Donna, Linda Lovelace, Traci Lords, Annabel Chong, Bambi Woods, etc.

Surprisingly, Stacy's story was different. This was not a desperate woman, or a duped teenage girl, or someone looking for any of revenge or their particular class or culture. Stacy Valentine says she just loved sex, and the industry opened doors for her into a life of comfortability. Never once did she talk about regretting getting into the business, and never does she struggle to get out.

This film is rather clever in that it appears the story of a porn star when it's actually about an everyday woman with the same pressures, worries, and insecurities as anybody else. She just happens to be a porn star. The film resists offering moments of titillation, simply presenting Stacy and her world as Word Play presents its crossword puzzle creators, or Spellbound its child spellers. This is a woman and this is her world, and by the end of it, the big boobs and rampant sex are as workaday for us as they are for Stacy and her colleagues.

Stacy isn't a woman to be pitied for her choice of job. She has a strength about her that really draws you to her. She's got this innocence to her, and never does it come off as forced or fake or pitiable. The film manages to show that her insecurities really have little to do with her work. She wants recognition for her efforts, she wants to be able to trust people, she's never fully satisfied with herself. These are universal women's issues, no matter your line of work. I think this is really the film's major point.

I enjoyed the relationship between Stacy and her parents, who love and respect their very non-wild child daughter. I was also fascinated watching as the relationship between Stacy and her boyfriend built and eventually toppled. Again, the industry the pair belonged to became less and less important as you came to appreciate just how normal they were. The film, really, kind of destroys the image of porn and its people as high-life living sex dolls and their pumped up men.

There's an element of sadness to the whole thing, too You do wish Stacy would give herself a bit more credit. But at the same time, you step away with a sense of this woman as quite strong. She got out of porn when it had given her what she wanted -- money, a foundation, the ability to go anywhere and do anything. And she never turned back. Porn works -- take that feminists. Right?


STEVE says:
We bought this disc unseen something like four or five years ago, and it's been on our "to watch" shelf ever since. Nikki's suggested watching it a few times, but I've always vetoed it. Just not that interested in watching yet another tragic story of abuse that leads to a life in porn.

But March has been about - with a few exceptions - clearing out that "to watch" shelf, and while there are more movies there than we could possibly watch in a month, even if we watched three a day, I knew we'd get to The Girl Next Door sooner or later. And I gotta say I'm glad we did, because it was nothing like what I'd expected.

That's not to say that it doesn't have its tragic elements. Stacy's relationship with Julian, a fellow adult film star, is the stuff they write ballads about. She can't trust him completely because she can't trust anyone since her divorce, and ends up pushing him away. They get back together and it looks like everything's going fine; they even do a movie together... and that's the beginning of the end.

While not the connoisseur of porn documentaries that Nikki is, apparently, I still feel qualified to say that this one rates higher than most because it's about transformation, not degradation; improvement, not destruction. Stacy Valentine doesn't fit the stereotypical porn star profile: sexual abuse, runaway, hooked on drugs, forced into porn. She got in to it willingly, with her eyes open and a plan to get out in a few years, after she'd made some cash. And that's exactly what she did. She made her last adult movie on Febuary 14, 2000, four years to the day she made her first one, and is now Director of Model Recruitment for Penthouse magazine. Good job, Stacy.


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