Inside Lara Roxx (Director: Mia Donovan): Lara Roxx became semi-famous back in 2004, but not for the reason she had intended when she moved to L.A. from Montreal at the age of 21 to work in the adult film industry. Roxx was named as one of three female performers who had contracted HIV from male co-star Darren James, which resulted in a temporary shutdown of the porn industry that garnered international headlines. The virus is believed to have been transmitted during the filming of literally Roxx’s first movie scene, which involved double penetration. Inside Lara Roxx examines the aftermath of the physical and emotional carnage inflicted from the experience on its subject.
The film was shot over a five year period by first time director Mia Donovan, a photographer who used to work as a stripper in Montreal. Donovan follows Roxx as she makes her way back to L.A. to revisit some central figures from her brief foray in adult films, including the person who informed Roxx of her HIV status, former porn star Sharon Mitchell. Mitchell ran the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, which regularly tested performers (and, incidentally, just shut down a couple of weeks ago). Also interviewed are some dodgy characters like one of Roxx’s former managers and the creepy Bob Margold, a former performer also known as “Papa Bear,” who is now an advocate for the welfare of porn actors. Speaking of creepy, the ubiquitous (in porn circles anyway) Ron Jeremy also weighs in on her plight during an interview at an industry convention in Las Vegas, where Roxx makes an appearance to raise awareness of the dangers of unprotected sex in the business. That this is a subject still requiring education in 2011 is a fairly ridiculous notion, yet apparently justified, judging by the disturbing apathy and hollow sympathy to Roxx’s message and story elicited from the convention attendees. Unfortunately (but understandably), Darren James declined to be interviewed for the documentary. Clips from both Roxx’s films and her appearances on various US television shows after the scandal broke (including one ludicrous guest spot on the bottom-feeding Maury Povich Show) provide helpful context.
Additional interviews with Roxx’s family and counsellors from a juvenile detention centre where she stayed paint a picture of an extremely troubled young woman consumed by rebellion, which led to Roxx working as stripper and escort before her move into porn. Extensive interviews with Roxx herself reveal a mildly sympathetic character who is incredibly naïve and prone to making one bad decision after another (one of her boyfriends who appears briefly in the film, who is a crack addict like her, clearly has “trouble” written all over him). Her poor choices are further complicated by being afflicted with bipolar disorder.
Donovan developed a close friendship with Roxx during shooting, resulting in scenes that show the documentary’s subject at her most vulnerable and fragile. The movie opens with Roxx being interviewed while in treatment at a hospital psychiatric ward, and between her mental health issues and HIV-related health complications she looks like she’s barely hanging on. Donovan actually exercises admirable restraint in choosing not to belabour their exchange, opting to shut the cameras off until Roxx is healthier. A similar wiser judgement might have been used in excising one scene (or at least providing greater clarity) that occurs in Roxx’s apartment involving a fracas with a neighbour, which is jarringly confusing.
It’s because of the trust gained by Donovan that the end results of the film are so disappointing; despite the intimate access gained by the director, I was left with a curious and frustrating arm’s length feeling toward the film’s subject. There’s a compelling film somewhere involving this woman’s sad, tragic life, but Inside Lara Roxx is not it.