Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The Girl Next Door

By Sarah Hepola

JUNE 26, 2000: 

D: Christine Fugate. (Not Rated, 84 min.)

Stacy Baker just wanted to please. So it was no surprise that the sweet thang from Tulsa, Oklahoma, turned out like she did ­ a housewife trapped in a bad marriage to her high school sweetheart, no longer dreaming of sequins and silk sashes, just dusting and flinching. She probably could have lived that way forever, trying to please everyone, pleasing no one. Except for one thing: She didn't. When Baker's beefy husband suggested she get a boob job and send nude photos to Hustler, she did, just like a good little girl. But when Hustler liked what they saw, Baker bolted hubby and hearth for the porn biz, and Stacy Baker, sad suburban housewife, became Stacy Valentine, rising starlet in the adult entertainment industry. Director Christine Fugate (Tobacco Blues) follows Stacy over two years, as she tangles with romance, struggles to achieve the Pamela Anderson look she so admires, and endures the day-to-day grind (literally) that is her newfound career and support system. Fugate travels back to Tulsa to interview Stacy's mom, a working-class woman who sips a Lone Star during her interview and is teased by her amiable second husband about a time when she, too, liked sex. We meet Stacy's childhood best friend, who expresses difficulty relating to someone whose answer to "How was your day?" includes the word "double penetration." But Fugate resists the temptation to ply open her childhood for our disapproval, allowing Stacy to speak for herself without adding cloying narration. With her tireless enthusiasm, Stacy seems more like a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader than a porn star, but Fugate also captures the vulnerable side that peeks out after the forced smile crumbles. While she may have outrun a troubled past, Stacy Baker can't seem to stop changing herself to meet others' expectations. By far the most harrowing, and fascinating, portion of the film is her repeated trips to the plastic surgeon. The doctor maps out the tucks and nips with a black marker, like dark perforation points across her naked hips, belly, thighs, and breasts. In the operating room, Stacy lies anesthetized as doctors root around inside her, sticking things in, sucking things out. There is something doomed and desperate about all these gambles for happiness, like her grabs at love with a fellow porn actor named Julian. They always seem to end up the same way, and yet she takes the dive again and again ­ either bravely or foolishly ­ always wondering if maybe this time, just maybe ... In the end, The Girl Next Door isn't much more than an extended E! True Hollywood Story, far tamer than some viewers might be expecting in its depiction, nevertheless compelling, of life in the porn biz. But the film is a poignant reminder that while the girl next door may just want to have fun, she also, probably, just wants to be loved.

2.5 Stars

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