Thursday, April 26, 2018

Movie Review: Author: The JT LeRoy Story

Author: The JT LeRoy Story **** / *****
Directed by: Jeff Feuerzeig.
Written by: Jeff Feuerzeig.
There’s no real investigation going on in Author: The JT Leroy story – and that’s not really a bad thing. The investigation has already happened, and everyone already knows that there never was a real person with the name JT LeRoy, who turned his experiences as an abused son of a prostitute, and then his own time as a drug addict and prostitute, into thinly veiled fiction of his own life. Instead, we know that JT LeRoy, instead of being a teenage Phenom in the literary world, was really Laura Albert – a middle aged woman who created JT LeRoy in her own head, and wrote as him. When JT LeRoy became a bestselling author, and celebrities wanted to meet him, and eventually Albert could no longer hide anymore, we know that she convinced her sister-in-law, Savannah, to pose as LeRoy, and be the public face of this new literary icon. By the time the movie begins, the story is out – almost anyone watching the movie will already know it, and so this movie does something different. It basically lets Albert tell her own story, why she did what she did, and what she makes of it. Albert is a gifted storyteller to be sure (I was never a huge fan of LeRoy’s books, but Albert’s skill spinning this yarn is undeniable). I get that people out there will think that this is basically the version of the story Albert wants, and that it exonerates her – but I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.
I do think that the documentary may have been stronger had director Jeff Feuerzeig made a few different choices in making it. I don’t really think that interviewing anyone else other than Albert helps the documentary very much – it makes it seem like a more objective film than it actually is – and I don’t really think the final scene of the movie, which reveals “shocking” information should have been placed where it was – like everything else in the movie, we don’t really know if it’s true or not, but placing it where he does, Feuerzeig seems to imply that it’s somehow the key to the movie – the Rosebud – that explains everything else. It doesn’t.
What the film does amazingly well though is to dig into Albert, and allow her to tell her story, the way she sees it. It is a fascinating story about many things – literature, self-image, depression and our obsession with celebrity. It forces you to question the ever interesting notion of separating the art from the artist – and whether it is every truly possible. Does it matter that Albert was the writer, who was making everything – including JT himself – up out of her own mind? The books never claimed to be true – they were always listed as fiction. Does it make it less honest, less real, because Albert wrote it, instead of JT? Why? The words on the page are the same regardless of who wrote them.
I do wish that Feuerzeig had found a better way to undermine Albert’s story better than he does. I am not saying that he needed to be harder on Albert – to go after her, and get her to admit something. What precisely would see admit that she hasn’t already? But there had to be a way to call some of what she is saying more into doubt than Feuerzeig does. The movie doesn’t need to be a gotcha! – but I think it needed another element to make it a truly great doc.
What remains then is merely a very good documentary – a fascinating look inside one of the most bizarre literary “hoaxes” in recent memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment