Movie Review – AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY

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jt-leroyAuthor: The JT LeRoy Story delves into the curiously confusing story of Laura Albert, the controversial creator of the literary figure known as Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy (aka JT LeRoy) and the writer of JT’s novels Sarah (2000) and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2001). Albert is a woman with keen creativity fueled by her fertile imagination. She’s also very good at grabbing the spotlight.

The JT novels are dark expressions of America’s underbelly – the life of a truck stop prostitute and other such explicit scenarios. When the novels were published, critics declared author Leroy to be a literary genius, and the young writer, ostensibly a teenage boy, became a regular on the New York underground arts scene, famously hanging out at clubs with the likes of Billy Corben, Asia Argento, Gus Van Sant, Mary Karr and others.

The trouble was that JT Leroy didn’t really exist, but was an alterego to Laura Albert, who was complicit in sending a young confidant– Savannah Knoop — into the world to pose as LeRoy. When fans found out about the ruse, they were understandably miffed and angrily pointed the ‘fraud’ finger at Albert.

Filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig structures this documentary so that Laura Albert, on camera and in voice over narration, comments on archival footage showing JT Leroy — or, rather, Savannah Knoop who impersonated him — out and about town, and also recalling and explaining her own role in New York’s underground culture scene, both as herself and as other alteregos named Speedie, who sang in a rock band, and Emily Frasier. In on camera interviews, Albert insists that the affair was not an intentional hoax, but that the JT’s artistic creativity emanated from her when she could not write as herself and that presenting Savannah Knoop as JT was an impulsively followed creative streak that got out of hand.

Despite Albert’s sympathy-evoking explanations, the story remains confusing. Her first person testimony is compelling, but the film clearly skews in Albert’s favor. There are others who comment on the JT Leroy/Laura Albert controversy, too, but you’re never quite sure of whether Albert is genuinely delusional or simply exercising her very creative imagination to the fullest and in doing so creatively deceiving the public, including critics, scholars and cultural gurus, as well as literary fans.

That said, the film gives rise to a welcome discussion about the cult of celebrity, and its powerful impact on artists, their work and the meaning of their work. That’s by far the most engaging thing about the film — unless you’re a JT fan who felt deceived by Albert and got caught up in the controversy following her exposure.

Film Details:

Film Details:

Title: Author: The JT Leroy Story
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Premiere: Sundance Film Festival, January 22, 2016
US Theatrical Release Date: September 9, 2016
Running Time: 110 mins.
Parental Guidance: Advisory for Parental Guidance for content, language.
Location: New York, Hollywood and other US locations.
Language: English
Production Country: USA
Production Companies: A&E IndieFilms, Fancy Film Post Services, RatPac Documentary Films
Distribution Company: Anazon Studios
Official Website
Trailer

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