JT LeRoy: Film Review

I love it when films shine a light on a real-life story I didn’t know anything about and JT LeRoy is one of those films.

Laura Dern stars as real-life songwriter Laura Albert, who penned the 2000 book Sarah under the guise of JT LeRoy, a young male former prostitute. She gives phone interviews as JT but she can’t give him a physical presence, for obvious reasons, but a solution presents itself when her androgynous sister-in-law Savannah Knoop (Kristen Stewart) comes to stay. Laura convinces Savannah to pose as JT for a photoshoot, and after that’s a success, the requests keep on coming, with Savannah playing JT more and more when the rights to the book are optioned for a movie, to be directed by European actress Eva (Diane Kruger), who Savannah develops feelings for.

The hoax of JT LeRoy caused quite the literary scandal in the early 2000s and it was interesting watching how it all began and went from something innocent to a more elaborate deception, particularly after people began to question if LeRoy is actually a man. It was also fascinating watching the power dynamic shift between Laura and Savannah. Laura acts as JT’s British assistant Speedie so she can supervise how Savannah acts as her finely crafted persona and you can see her getting quietly pissed off as she’s passed over by people more interested in JT, her creation. This tension builds to some captivating conversations.

However, by and large, the true story is more fascinating than the movie would make it seem – it really understates things and doesn’t give it the drama it deserves. It’s quite quiet and slow-moving and loses its way a little bit.

I think Stewart is fantastic in everything and she is perfectly cast as the queer, androgynous Savannah, who unbelievably goes along with the pretence for six years!! After seeing her as Renata in Big Little Lies, it was refreshing to see Dern as this hippie songwriter who talks about her “art”. They are supported by the underused Jim Sturgess as Savannah’s brother and Laura’s boyfriend Geoffrey, Kelvin Harrison Jr as Savannah’s boyfriend Sean, who excellently calls her out on her BS, and Kruger, who was a complete mystery to me. I also must mention Courtney Love‘s random cameo!

If you don’t know the story of JT LeRoy then this is definitely worth a watch so you can learn about it. You can’t make stuff like this up! However, the film is not as good as the source material or its two fine leads.

In cinemas and video-on-demand from Friday 16th August 

Rating: 3/5

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