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Author The JT LeRoy Story review: A hugely watchable documentary on perhaps the biggest ‘hoax’ to have ever ‘rocked’ the literary world.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story review by Paul Heath, June 2016.

Author The JT LeRoy Story review
Author The JT LeRoy Story review

Author: The JT Leroy Story is the second feature documentary to make it across the pond from Utah to Sundance London (Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Weiner is the other to be selected for British audiences). Writer and director Jeff Feuerzeig‘s (The Devil and Daniel Johnson) film is a mesmerising, first hand account of the true story of Laura Albert, a Brooklyn based writer who created a pseudonym to write under named JT LeRoy, a HIV positive son of a West Virginia truck stop hooker, who became a much bigger entity when his/ her work started to get published.

In the early 2000s, Albert ’employed’ her sister-in-law Savannah Koop to assume the physical form of LeRoy, her avatar for the world who would interact with, and be applauded by the likes of U2, Smashing Pumpkins front-man Billy Corgan, film director Gus Van Sant, actor Michael Pitt, Garbage’s Shirley Manson, music legend Lou Reed, Hole’s Courtney Love and many more. Penning three books under the pseudonym, Albert also had a movie adapted from the second, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, brought to the screen by Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento.

Author The JT LeRoy Story review
Author The JT LeRoy Story review

The film charts this stranger-than-fiction story through a first-person narrative with Albert herself, other relevant figures that were involved via talking heads, along with dozens of recorded phone calls and answer machine messages from the aforementioned A-listers, matched with well-edited footage, some archive and some constructed to aid the account.

As well as telling this remarkable story in this way, director Feuerzeig and Albert recount the young author’s journey through adolescence to adulthood, and the many life hurdles that she had to overcome. Of course, many questions are raised along the way, including the morality behind this great ‘hoax’, if at all it was one in the first place.

Author The JT LeRoy Story review
Author The JT LeRoy Story review

Author: The JT LeRoy Story is, at first, difficult to get into, but as Feuerzeig’s brilliant document finds its feet no more than 15 minutes in, its plain sailing through to his astonishing ending. I wasn’t familiar with the story at all prior to seeing the film, which I really can’t believe after seeing it, as the fallout from the exposure of ‘the truth’ only occurred just over ten years ago. It’s a truly remarkable story perfectly documented in this unmissable piece of work.

The film’s success is not only down to Feuerzeig’s superbly edited construction, or the nature of the story, but also down to Albert’s unflinching, intimate portrayal of herself and her immersive watch-ablility. This is captivating stuff, absorbing all of the way through and a brilliant examination of the relevance and ridiculous nature of celebrity and how it is created from life’s many art forms.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story review by Paul Heath, June 2016.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story screens at Sundance London 2016.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
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