VOD film review: Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Stranger than fiction8
More subjective than truth8
James R | On 19, Sep 2016
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Cast: Laura Albert
Watch Author: The JT LeRoy Story online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Curzon Home Cinema / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Truth is stranger than fiction, Mark Twain once said – but what about when truth is fiction? In the 1990s, that was exactly the case, when a talented author, JT LeRoy, became an overnight sensation. He was young, talented, a prostitute turned artist turned celebrity. He also didn’t exist: he was the creation of Laura Albert, a mother from Brooklyn.
What started out as a pen name soon took on a life of his own, as JT was hailed by stars such as Winona Ryder and Bono – despite the fact that his fictitious initials stood for “Jeremiah Terminator”. Roping in her sister, Savannah, to play LeRoy in public – and even Savannah’s musician boyfriend to support the act – Laura’s little white lie spiralled into a web of lies and celebrated song lyrics.
Director Jeff Feuerzeig picks apart the myth with gripping precision, walking us step by step to the moment of discovery. By the time her second novel is turned into a film that debuts at Cannes, we’re shocked but somehow unsurprised. That’s thanks to Albert herself, who doesn’t shy away from offering her take on events throughout. And, sure enough, she’s a gifted, charismatic presenter, given the main stage to narrate events without interruption from her no doubt many detractors.
What emerges is a sensitive study of stories and storytellers – a look at someone who claims that all she wanted was to be a normal human being. It’s perhaps revealing that she compares her plight halfway through to The Prince and the Pauper, rather than any real life incident, but Feuerzeig’s film resists the urge to psychoanalyse its subject, letting her speak for herself. He’s not interested in objective scrutiny, but subjective reality; he immerses you in the voice of JT, or Laura, but subtly keeps in cues that remind you this has all been spun from her imagination (the use of the word “Story” in the title is no coincidence). Whether you believe her take on events is another matter entirely, but you’ll be hooked on every word. “It’s the most exciting thing to get a response to a book I never meant to write,” she observes. It’s truth. It’s fiction. And it’s fascinating to watch.