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February 22nd, 2006 David Walker | DVD & TV
 

The Girl Next Door

     
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Don't confuse this 1999 documentary with the insipid 2004 comedy of the same name. The latter was a lame-brain ripoff of Risky Business, while the former Girl Next Door is a thought-provoking portrait of adult-film star Stacy Valentine. At the same time, don't confuse the documentary with a titillating glorification of the porn industry, because filmmaker Christine Fugate's surprisingly candid movie is anything but.

Just now making it to home video, The Girl Next Door has not lost any of its power. Fugate's film starts out as a behind-the-scenes look at Valentine, who in the late 1990s was just making a name for herself in porn after leaving behind her life as an abused housewife in Oklahoma. But as the documentary moves forward, and Valentine's star begins to rise through the ranks of the adult-film industry, her sexpot facade begins to crumble. Between her trips to the plastic surgeon—graphically captured on video—and her confessional-like interviews with Fugate, Valentine emerges as a far more complex (and fragile) person than most people are comfortable seeing. It becomes increasingly difficult to see her as an insatiable sex vixen the more her insecurities come to the surface. In fact, the closest thing to sexual contact you'll want to have with Valentine is giving her a reassuring hug as you lead her to the nearest therapist.

The Girl Next Door joins a growing list of cockumentaries—documentaries about the sex industry—which includes such films as Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes and Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy. And while it lacks the power and grit of Wadd, it far surpasses the timid, ultimately disappointing Porn Star. Where the film's ultimate success lies is in its ability to portray Valentine as a complex human being and in the way it strips away whatever glamour is associated with porn, without becoming a rallying cry against it.

 
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