Try 1 month for 99¢

Both fans and foes of pornography probably ought to watch "The Girl Next Door,"

a blunt, humanizing look at the adult-film industry as experienced by one of

its most popular stars.

The movie, directed with taste and minimal prurient appeal by veteran PBS

documentarian Christine Fugate, is neither a hatchet-job against porn nor a

defense of it. Rather, Fugate objectively chronicles two years in the life of

porn star Stacy Baker, aka Stacy Valentine, and allows viewers to draw their

own conclusions from Stacy's story.

Despite Stacy's persistently upbeat, can-do attitude about her work and career,

the story recounted in "The Girl Next Door" is mostly a sad one. Unlike

pornography itself, which obscures the emotions and personalities of its

performers and focuses solely on their bodies, Fugate's film captures the

effect this business has on Stacy's heart, mind and personal life. What's so

disheartening is that Stacy doesn't seem to recognize the connection between

her chosen profession and her own apparent unhappiness.

Formerly a housewife from Tulsa, Okla., Stacy's trek into adult entertainment

began when her husband encouraged her to pose for Gallery Magazine's amateur

model contest. She won, and soon after Stacy left her husband and became porn

star Stacy Valentine.

"The Girl Next Door" follows Stacy's saga from the porno-film sets where she

performs, to her mother's home in Oklahoma, where she ruminates on her

childhood and what led her into the business. Fugate's camera watches as Stacy

undergoes surgical augmentation to enhance her "assets," undergoes therapy to

make her feel good about herself, and has "Trust No One" tattooed on her neck

in Japanese.

"The Girl Next Door" captures those moments in Stacy's life that fans of her

movies never see, and it's an eye-opening, unexpectedly emotional view. The

film doesn't ask us to sympathize with Stacy; in fact, some of what she does

(like having sex with a wealthy French fan for money) is really off-putting.

But Stacy has such a sweet personality, and she seems so lost and lonely

inside, that we can't help feeling badly for her even though we know she's

responsible for her own life choices, good and bad.

One of the most poignant aspects of "The Girl Next Door" is its love story.

Fugate chronicles Stacy's on-again, off-again relationship with Julian, another

adult-film performer. Aside from providing insight into how a porno career can

affect romantic relationships (Stacy has no problem watching Julian have sex

with other actresses, but holding hands with them would amount to betrayal),

Stacy and Julian's attempts at love give "The Girl Next Door" a secondary

personality of interest.

Julian, like Stacy, seems like a genuinely decent person, but he has trouble

accepting certain aspects of Stacy's professional life. Watching these two

pained souls trying to work through and around the conflicts and roadblocks

constructed by their careers is absolutely heartbreaking, because we know they

really love each other.

It's these honest emotional portrayals, and not the sex, nudity or frank

discussions about pornography, that make "The Girl Next Door" a worthwhile

viewing experience. Whether you like pornography, despise it or feel

indifferently toward it, "The Girl Next Door" is bound to make an impact.

* Christopher Sheid can be reached at csheid@howpubs.com, or (219) 933-3256.

0
0
0
0
0