Author: The JT LeRoy Story Review

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A decade on from his extraordinary film The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Director Jeff Feuerzeig returns with another documentary about a troubled artist, this time charting the bizarre tale of cult writer Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy. LeRoy’s stranger-than-fiction rise to fame, from an “AIDS suffering, sex-change son of a truck-stop prostitute” to cult literary sensation, rattled the world’s media in 2005 when it was revealed by New York magazine that he didn’t actually exist. The article exposed LeRoy as a construct; one of the many multiple personalities of schizophrenic ex-phone-sex worker Laura Albert from Brooklyn. The magazine also revealed that the person who had been appearing as JT LeRoy in public/ the media was Laura’s close friend, fashion designer Savannah Knoop, donned in “male attire”.

Feuerzeig’s film starts by examining Laura’s difficult upbringing and the life that lead to her literary “hoax de nos jours”. Laura took up creative writing as a form of therapy/ chance to escape, as suggested by her analyst. This lead to the publication of her earlier work in Nerve and Shout NY magazines throughout the 90s, which Laura penned under the pseudonym Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy: a personality who emerged during her psychotherapy sessions. Laura followed this with her/ his first novel “Sarah” in 1999, which received huge critical acclaim/ commercial success and catapulted LeRoy into literary stardom.

“JT LeRoy” surfaced as a brave and powerful new voice on the literary scene but, being far too temperamental to partake in the celebrity culture/ public eye, what Laura did next was true creative genius. Questions on the value of identity and authorship in relation to the authenticity of writing and the value of its context, arise during Author while the more serious emotional/ personal conflicts that Laura experiences provide essential humanity amidst the media hullabaloo. Laura imparts dark memories of her troubled childhood with an admirable honesty and tremendous courage while coming to terms with her own identity crisis: “God, let me wake up as a blond haired, blue eyed boy that men would want to fuck” she states.

Laura eventually went on to write for Gus Van Sant (penning the first draft of Elephant), had a relationship with Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan, worked on Asia Argento’s film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things” and employed another of her personalities (Speedie: a Brit punk) to act as LeRoy’s (Savannah Knoop’s) manager and as a way for her to physically participate in the celebrity, public side of his/her career. Author is adorned by a wealth of phone call recordings, stock, news and event footage and new interviews with the avant-garde writer, her friends and associates.

Feuerzeig extrapolates Laura’s peculiar personality which pounds potently throughout but the kooky/ chic visuals, incorporating Wes Anderson style idiosyncrasies and quirky animation, initially feels a tad inappropriate and condescending in the sequences addressing Laura’s troubled childhood. Black and white photography and flickering film footage meld well from the outset and, as the story evolves and becomes more outlandish, Feuerzeig’s more scatty facets click into sync. His visual manners compliment the outlandish parts of Laura’s later life and makes her story flourish on screen.

Author is a compelling and astonishing account of a brave and remarkable life. Its candid glimpses into Laura’s heart provide a raw essence and imperative humanity which helps the film flower into a remarkable and breath-taking depiction, brilliantly brought to life with great passion and flair.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Author: The JT LeRoy Story
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Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.