Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Girl Next Door - The Stacy Valentine Story

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What happens when the best, and most confident thing one does in their life is have sex?

If the person is Stacy Valentine she becomes one of the most famous porn stars ever.

This documentary chronicles the rise of her porn stardom.

It's a humanizing look into the world of pornography from the point of view of one of it's most admired former stars. Because of the popularity of pornography, there's been an increase of documentaries on the subject. HBO has had critical, and commercial success with their special Thinking XXX, and their mini series Pornocopia: Going down in the Valley. SHOWTIME, in the meantime, has been successfully airing their comedic reality show Family Business for several years now.....and counting. What's interesting about this new batch of documentaries is that they all seem to feature positive, even humor filled aspects of the business. It would seem that nowadays porn stars are respected, and admired for their abilities as much as some of our most famous athletes. The fact is that pornography is more mainstream than ever, and it's incredibly lucrative, and profitable, especially for the top tier female performers. There was even a romantic comedy recently starring Elisha Cuthbert as a porn star. Ironically, the movie had the same title as this film.

This documentary doesn't make any judgments on the business, but looking into Stacy Valentine's eyes one can easily see that there is a huge price to pay for porn stardom.

The most intriguing aspect of the movie is witnessing Stacy Valentine doing, and saying all the right things about her job, but because of her affable and simple nature, one can tell she doesn't REALLY believe what she's saying. One also notices pretty early on that unlike some of her other fellow porn stars, like Jenna Jameson or Seymore Butts for example, she doesn't have the business savvy, personal drive, and intelligence to deal with the difficulties of being a porn star. She depends too much on her heart, which is something she needs to turn off to be mega-successful in such an unforgiving business.

The movie begins with her background, and up bringing in Oklahoma. She's born Stacy Baker, and has a seemingly normal childhood. But soon the viewer finds that her father was mentally, and possibly physically abusive. During the film, Stacy claims that she was never sexually molested, and that the abuse she went through had nothing to do with the fact she pursued porn. Strangely enough, she gets into the business when her then-husband encourages her to send photos to Hustler magazine. Upon winning an amateur contest, and enjoying a x-rated photo shoot she soon realizes that she wants to leave her husband, and join the adult business.

What follows is a unnerving look into the world of being a porno star. There's some revealing footage of her personal life with male porn star Julian, and the difficulties of dating within the business. There is also some interesting moments on the set like her first movie shoot, and even a humorous moment when she becomes violently allergic to the fog machines on a porn set. In several scenes she awkwardly interacts with fans, and we also attend an adult movie award show.The most startling footage in the movie, however,is her preparing for, and the actual filming of the plastic surgery performed on her body. In a poignant moment in the film, she remarks how sometimes she doesn't even recognize herself in the mirror, and she worries about what kind of psychological affect that will have on her.

But the most compelling moment in the entire film is when she tries to justify when she prostitutes herself to a wealthy Frenchman during Cannes. She remarks how she feels bad for cheating on her boyfriend, and that because she doesn't sleep around off set, that it's okay for her to sell her body for cash. But in reality that's the least of her worries, when the camera looks into her eyes as she speaks, it reveals how she probably feels embarrassed, and used. It's an interesting foreshadow of the end of her porn career. After returning from her "date" she playfully throws the seemingly meager amount of money up in the air, and rolls around it on her bed, but there doesn't seem to be any joy in her actions. In her heart she knows it looks, and feels cheap , even though after closer inspection it reveals that the bills are hundreds, and there is probably several thousand dollars on that bed.

It's a well done moment, in a film filled with painfully awkward moments. Perhaps it's because Christine Fugate, the director of the film is a woman, it seems throughout the entire film Stacy feels threatened by her unobjective eye. Lots of the movie is about half hearted justifying, even when Fugate doesn't ask or demand that from her.

Just when one thinks it can't get any lower for Stacy, rock bottom hits when Julian, her boyfriend, performs in a threesome scene with Stacy. At first they seem excited about the scene, and the opportunity to work with each other. But when the moment of the scene arrives, Julian is struck impotent by the sight of his girlfriend having sex with another male performer. It's a painful moment as we hear the sounds of seemingly pleasurable sex, and the camera focuses in on a crushed and hurt Julian inches away watching her girlfriend having sex. Two weeks later he breaks up with her, leaving her in tears. It paints a sad, and painful portrait of being a porn star. Which is probably the reason, in the year 2000, Stacy eventually quits performing in the business entirely.

It's a fascinating documentary, and a good offset to all the positive documentaries about porn out there.

The movie is available now on DVD.

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