A shot-on-video, do-it-yourself quality documentary that belongs on late-night HBO rather than in theaters, "The Girl Next Door" skirts the edges of porn star Stacy Valentine's mock-happy life, trying so hard to not pass judgment on her choice of careers that it ends up having little, if anything, to say about its subject.
Christine Fugate, the unblinking eye behind PBS' 1998 cigarette industry exposé "Tobacco Blues," directs this all-access chronicle that follows this former Oklahoma housewife -- whose adult film career began with homemade pictures for Hustler at the behest of her abusive ex-husband -- through several months of on-set sex, porn industry awards, stomach-turning cosmetic surgeries, equally unappealing convention meet-and-greets with pasty, sweaty-palmed fans, monthly AIDS tests and a doomed romance with a shallow co-star.
Fugate's interviews with her subject are interesting in a car-crash kind of way, but they're ultimately unsatisfying because Valentine hasn't anything unpredictable to offer on the subjects of her career choices, her family (she's adopted, we meet mom and stepdad), her love life or her regrets. One gets the impression that this particular starlet was chosen for the film simply because she's the closest thing the industry has to a clean-cut, everyday girl.
Fugate's serious docu cred is undermined by the film's "I have a camcorder, let's make a movie!" ambiance and by some of her choices in post-production, like the use of scenes from Valentine's porno flicks to illustrate moments she reveals from her real life. If this is meant to be ironic, it fails. If it's sincere, it's just laughable. The director also has distractingly bad taste in incidental music.
On television, "The Girl Next Door" might hold someone's interest for a while as it does pull the curtain back on the adult entertainment industry through the eyes of a sympathetic insider.
But it's nothing to be shelling out $8 to see in a theater when it's clearly shot for TV anyway. If the subject interests you, I suggest you wait for it to pop up on Showtime or HBO at 4 in the morning.