Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig
New York magazine’s October 2005 issue sent shockwaves through the literary world when it unmasked “it boy” wunderkind JT LeRoy, whose tough prose about his sordid childhood had captivated icons and luminaries internationally. It turned out LeRoy didn’t actually exist. He was dreamed up by 40-year-old San Francisco punk rocker and phone sex operator, Laura Albert.
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★★★★ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
Second viewing, no change, though until the last five minutes I was ready to declare it my favorite film of the year (just as I was the first time). All that's needed is some tiny means of undermining Albert's authority. Instead, we get pop-psych rationalization (which could easily be a lie) followed by "where is she now?" text that seems to vindicate her, retroactively making the whole film feel a bit gross. Still, it's such an improbably wild ride, supported by such an insane wealth of "evidence," that I gaped my way through it all over again.
Side note: I believe this is the only film I've ever seen that includes footage from an event at which I was present (the Cannes premiere of Heart Is Deceitful). I remember Savannah-as-JT saying "Vive la résistance!" Feuerzeig cheats a little by making it look as if the film played the Palais, though, when it was actually in the Fortnight (which is a completely different location half a mile or so away).
★★★½ review by Sofa Sinema on Letterboxd
I saw the Canadian premiere of Asia Argento's The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things and knew immediately that this blonde woman pretending to be the transgender poster boy JT Leroy was a scam. It's amazing how easily duped these elitist celebrities can be when they blindly follow their twisted progressive fantasies. Funny seeing Brett Ratner's name in the credits, and all the other connections to recent Hollywood scandals. 7.4/10
★★★½ review by Jordi Sánchez-Navarro on Letterboxd
Con brillantes recursos de puesta en escena y no pocos ecos de puzzles sobre la metaficción como F for Fake , Author: The JT LeRoy Story es un tratado sobre la creación literaria como psicosis y sobre el autor como construcción social. De paso, es también un who is who de buena parte de la fauna del indie americano de los 90.
★★★★ review by Jeff Stewart on Letterboxd
In the early 2000's, an underground obscure author going only by the name J.T Leroy penned several novels and short stories that garnered wide-spread acclaim, attention, and fixation from readers and other artists like Billy Corbin, Winona Ryder, and Gus Van Sant. "J.T LeRoy" starts to make a lot of big-name friends and becomes an of-the-moment sensation. As time went on questions started to arise about the true authorship of the work. In Author: The JT LeRoy Story, Jeff Feuerzieg expertly peels back the curtain to reveal who really was this J.T Leroy that drew such a dedicated following of fans. Not really an investigative piece, the real author Laura Albert is revealed on-camera from the start to tell her engaging story, but rather an exploration of the world of fame and getting lost in that rabbit hole. In the process, reinventing one's self to match the idea of who you want to be to others.
Another larger question that the film begs to ask is does it actually matter how authors of fiction present themselves? Laura Albert chose a pen name and made up a persona to hide behind for years, but she did craft the stories that gripped an audience. How much is what she did a Hoax? Legally yes there is plenty as is shown towards the end but isn't a relationship to a work our own doing and thus we can only blame ourselves? It's one of many introspective questions that will emerge afterward with this fascinating and probing documentary.
★★★½ review by Ken Coffelt on Letterboxd
I can’t recall now how aware I was if J.T.LeRoy before his unmasking in 2005. I might have missed out on the whole thing we’re it not a local story and so highly emblazoned in San Francisco media. As the story played out, I didn’t really get it, figuring the literary hoax just some flash in a pan nearby.
Truth may be stranger than fiction, but when so complexly interwoven, it gets stranger still.
Author: The J.T. LeRoy Story seeks to set the matter straight,...from the perspective of Laura Albert, the 40-something year old woman who was writing as a gender-fluid teen from the meanest of streets. Turns out that Albert, a victim of abuse herself, developed LeRoy as a character she used in therapy over the phone, calling in an at risk youth hotline. Her therapist turned LeRoy onto writing, then helped them get published. Albert approached writers like Denis Cooper and others as LeRoy (always by phone) and developed significant relationships with them, those suspecting they were helping a troubled, talented youth who had AIDS and was doing what he had to in order to survive.
Literary success and celebrity recognition transformed something arguably therapeutic into something much more of a fraud. Albert employed her 19 year old sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop, to dress in a wig and sunglasses and to “be” LeRoy in real life.
It was a gateway to fame and celebrity that sucked them all in and makes for one of the strangest scenarios you can imagine.
This version is Albert’s and portrays a damaged artist who sort of accidentally got caught up in a fraud, pulling in her family and duping the literary world, the film world, and the music world in Warholian scheme.
While it’s easy to see Albert’s side of things here, one of the most bizarre aspects of Author is the amazing amount of recorded dialogues that supplement and depict this story, spanning over a decade. Apparently Albert recorded virtually every conversation she ever had and most of the people had no idea they were being recorded. This sure adds to the movie but it’s so insanely dubious, further underscoring how much everyone who touched LeRoy’s world was being manipulated and used. And why most of them felt such acrimony for them afterwards.
I’ve fallen into a real rabbit hole here, and rabbit hole it is. An alternate documentary The Cult of J.T. LeRoy is apparently more incisive. Knoop went on and wrote a memoir of her experiences which is now being turned into a movie with Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern. Everyone at the heart of the thing is getting their own versioning of the story.
It just goes on.
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