In 10 Words or Less
Behind the green door
Loves: Good documentaries, Boogie Nights
Dislikes: Stereotypical stories, plastic surgery
Stacy Valentine is a woman who went from being a housewife in Tulsa, Oklahoma to a famous porn star, thanks to the power exerted on her by men. Having been featured as an amateur in "Hustler," thanks to her husband encouraging her to send a photo and get a boob job, she found she enjoyed being naked and being naked with men, and was quickly on her way to porn stardom.
The Girl Next Door catches Stacy in her porn prime, as she enjoys the spotlight and all the sex she has. The film touches on all the stereotypical porn plot points, like the lack of real personal relationships, the loneliness, the family drama, though with a slight twist, as her mother and stepfather support her, despite her unique career choice. If you've ever heard stories about the downside of the porn industry, then this film will be deja vu for you, just without the drugs.
Christine Fugate, who worked with Joe Berlinger on MTV's "FanClub," put together a simple, but effective style, keeping her distance when not interviewing her subjects. The pacing can get boring at times, and the editing doesn't help, as it doesn't have the style and energy of recent documentaries. As far as the content goes, Fugate depicts the sex by obscuring the more explicit bits, using long shots or obstructions, which takes away a bit, but might make it more accessible to those who don't want to see the sex.
Though the biz gets quite a bit of screen-time, the general focus of the movie is Stacy and her boyfriend Julien, a fellow performer. Stacy, thanks to her father and husband, doesn't trust men, and Julien, a guy who has sex with other women for money, gets the same treatment. As a result, the couple has many, many problems, all of which are played out in front of the camera. Frequently, Stacy is seen in tears, lamenting her situation.
Using the camera as something of a confessional, and prodded by the director, Julian and Stacy hash out their problems very directly, leading to a slightly disturbing moment when she refers to herself in the third-person. That says it all about Stacy, who has a hard time separating the character she plays in porn from the real person. It would be hard for anyone to figure out what's real, when one's been changed as much as she has, as seen in the explicit scenes of plastic surgery.
Though the film rarely reveals anything that hasn't been seen before, it catches at least two moments of excellent truth. During the shooting of a threesome, the jealousy Julian has for Stacy's on-screen partners is captured perfectly. To watch someone's relationship actually crumble in front of your eyes is a very powerful experience and that's the best thing this film has to offer.
The other occurs on the set of a porn shoot, where technical difficulties cause troubles for Stacy that show the less glamorous side of the business. Most documentaries about porn try to play down the glitz and focus on the struggles, but this scene shows just how ugly the industry can be. These two scenes combined are more effective in telling Stacy's story than the rest of the film. Not surprisingly, they didn't directly involve Stacy, whose measured and calculated personality served to hold back the documentary by not being truly real.
There's nothing on the case that says this is a screener copy, but you wouldn't know it from looking at the disc, with nothing but plainly printed text displaying the title and company Web site. The disc comes in a standard keepcase, without an insert. The DVD starts with a forced trailer for God's Sandbox, before moving into an animated, full-frame main menu with options to watch the film, select scenes and check out the special features. The scene-selection menus include animated previews for each chapter, while there are no subtitles, audio options or closed captioning.
The full-frame video is rather grainy, especially in darker moments, which affects the level of detail, though the color is just fine. I've certainly seen better video than this, but then, I've seen worse also. On the positive side, there doesn't seem to be any dirt or damage in the transfer.
The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, isn't going to impress anyone, but it sounds fine for what it is. Dialogue is clear and the music mix isn't overbearing. There's nothing dynamic about the sound, but it is good enough for the film.
The biggest extra is the 10-minute "Stacy's Retirement Party" which includes a short interview with Stacy that covers the same material seen in the film. If this was a party, it was one of the lamest parties ever, with a cake and a few porno friends. Over five and a half minutes of TV clips about the movie are included also, including a story from "Extra." All these do is show how dumb these TV shows are.
Three minutes of deleted scenes don't add much to the package, while a pair of promos, one a 30-second TV commercial, the other a theatrical trailer, are found here too, and are also rather weak. Considering the film was released almost seven years ago, an update on what Stacey and her pals are doing now would have been appreciated. But then, they didn't include the photo gallery listed on the box, so how could we expect additional extras.
The Bottom Line
Watching this with my wife, we realized quickly that this wasn't the most fascinating movie, as we both nodded off midway into it. There's no reason a movie about a porn star should put you to sleep. Whether it's the slow pace of the editing, the oft-told story elements or the somewhat dull subject, but this movie just doesn't stand on it's own, getting all its energy from being set in the world of porn. The DVD is decent, but nothing great, with a few middling extras, but nothing all that interesting. If you really want to watch a good movie about porn, stick with Boogie Nights. It may be fiction, but at least it's entertaining.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.