This fine film opens with Nikki deep-throating Alex Sanders on an elegant staircase. Ralph Parfait's camera takes a beautiful pan as the pair starts to screw doggie-style; from their reflection in the face of a grandfather clock, across the wainscoting, with a glimpse of the tendrils of a plant, to the gorgeous inky cloud of Nikki's pubes, bisected by Alex's hard dick. Absolutely classic erotic cinematography! As the scene proceeds to lengthy furious fucking, surprise! — it's a scene in a porn flick being shot! Director Nic Cream steps in, interrupting the pair so the cameraman can change reels — and Nikki turns instant prima donna, tossing a hissy fit, refusing to fuck further, and demanding a cumshot. Enter fluffer Kaitlyn Ashley, who chows down eagerly on Alex, and then takes him straight up the ass, with stunning from-the-floor coverage, enhanced by the flaring flaps of Kaitlyn's pussy.
Nikki's no bitch, though; just suffering from porn burnout. Nikki fans will recognize a characterization similar to her Nikki's Last... series from VCA last year — but there's a twist. Nikki plays a dual role — she's also a shy, aspiring actress, hired by her porn-star persona to double for her on a personal appearance tour, affording the "real" Nikki a break from the biz, to attend girlfriend Dyanna Lauren's wedding to (who else) Brad Armstrong. This ubiquitous pair share a fireside fling, in front of Nikki and pal Nick East — a social faux pas, but reasonably satisfying sexually.
Nick romances Nikki amid lovely outdoor scenery and plaintively authentic romantic dialogue, courtesy of an excellent script by Hall of Famer Richard Pacheco. Attracted despite herself, Nikki "confesses" her porn career to Nick, who already knew. Their ensuing outdoor clinch is a classic — sun-kissed cinematography capturing a torrid sexual encounter, featuring the Gene Ross-fave spoon position, a cowgirl interlude, and a missionary finish. Have any breasts ever bounced as beautifully?
Meanwhile, "stand-in" Nikki, whose tour is cut short by a summons from director Bud Lee for a rescheduled film shoot, confesses to "her" bemused manager, the superb Tony Tedeschi (except for the Buster Brown haircut). With the "real" Nikki incommunicado, they have no choice but to proceed with filming — but "stand-in" Nikki rejects scheduled co-star Ron Jeremy, and insists on doing the scene with Tony. What follows is intense and athletic, but the handjob finish is an anticlimactic choice — my only minor quibble with this whole film.
A well-scripted and -edited happily-ever-after wrapup nails down, in this reviewer's opinion, nominations for writer Pacheco, editor Rick Elaine, and, of course, cinematographer Parfait and director Bud Lee. Nick and Tony both deserve Supporting Actor nods. This time, though, Nikki "competes" with herself, not Deidre Holland or any other co-star; and Hardcore, her best performance since Cal Vista's Things Change, may well carry away a Best Actress trophy come January. Don't miss it.