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A scene from "Inside Lara Roxx" (Handout)
A scene from "Inside Lara Roxx" (Handout)

Movie review

Inside Lara Roxx: The deadly price of porn fame Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

Intentional or not, the commercial release of Inside Lara Roxx is timely since it’s occurring less than a month after Los Angeles city council mandated that porn performers wear condoms in all films of that ilk shot within city limits.

To wear a condom – or not? To insist on its use – or not? These are, in fact, a couple of the big questions in Inside Lara Roxx, the desperately sad, almost unremittingly bleak true story of a gamine-like Québécoise wild child who travelled to Los Angeles in 2004 to break into the porn biz, only to end up testing positive for HIV shortly thereafter after shooting an unprotected sex scene with two males. Her plight at the time prompted headlines around the world – 10 stories or more in Toronto newspapers alone.

As ever in the news biz, though, the caravan soon moved on to other, fresher “unspeakable practices, unnatural acts.” The great virtue of Mia Donovan’s subterranean-budget documentary – it had its world premiere at last year’s Hot Docs Festival – is its refusal to let Lara Roxx fade away, its willingness to hang in not just one or two years after Roxx’s 15 minutes of semi-fame but for more than six.

At its core, Inside Lara Roxx is about degradation – the degradation of women by men, self-degradation, the exploitation of that degradation, the social, cultural and institutional circumstances that are its precondition, the degradation that comes with the industrialized routinization of the exchange of “precious bodily fluids,” to quote the late Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper.

Blessedly, director Donovan doesn’t belabour this theme; instead, it hangs like a miasma over the film the way smog sometimes hangs heavy over the “San Pornando” Valley.

You may wonder if Inside Lara Roxx is itself exploitative. A wary Roxx posits the question on camera when, after earning $10,000 for a sensationalistic appearance on The Maury Povich Show, she and Donovan decide to return to Los Angeles in mid-2007 to meet a potpourri of Roxx’s former associates – porn agents, fellow actresses, the doctor who diagnosed her HIV, a one-time performer now running a counselling agency called Protecting Adult Welfare, people with noms de porn like Lara Roxx – Anita Cannibal, Dick Nasty.

Eventually, one concludes that Inside Lara Roxx is no exercise in prurience bur rather a bearing witness. A former stripper herself, Donovan works hard and with considerable thoroughness to contextualize Roxx’s situation, to try to make us sympathize with her frequently infuriating subject without getting bathetic.

As Roxx stumbles from hospital to grotty apartment and back, from crack addiction to rehab centre, we meet her mother and sister, the counsellors who looked after her when she was put in a juvenile detention centre at 14, and Wolf, the spooky boyfriend with the dreadlocks, tattoos, criminal record and hair-trigger temper.

There is hope at the end of Inside Lara Roxx. Not enough to make you break out singing “Girl, you’re going to make it after all,” but enough to suggest there is a way ahead.

Inside Lara Roxx opens Friday for a limited run at Toronto’s Royal Cinema.

Inside Lara Roxx

  • Written, directed and co-produced by Mia Donovan
  • Starring Lara Roxx with appearances by Dick Nasty, Bill Margold, Ron Jeremy, Anita Cannibal
  • Classification: NA
  • 3 stars


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