Documentary filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig turns a controversial literary hoax that fooled the world (and a bunch of celebrities) into a tale of a private desperation, but tidies it up too much. From the start of ‘Author: The JT LeRoy Story’, we’re let into the nervous, chattering mind of Laura Albert, a Brooklyn-born author who felt compelled to create alternate identities and try them out on the phone with concerned doctors. One of them had a soft twangy accent and was a HIV-positive teenager who wrote autobiographical stories based on his childhood of West Virginia truck-stop abuse. He became JT LeRoy, and Albert enlisted her androgynous-looking sister-in-law to keep up appearances when the books began to sell.
Often the doc zooms ahead on comic fuel, getting off on Albert’s unlikely success. But shame never seems to enter into the picture and you wish Feuerzeig had been tougher on his subject. Never is Albert confronted with the ramifications of the way she falsely hijacked a disease, a sexual identity and a downtrodden group in society. And a last-act lunge to complicate Albert’s backstory with her own childhood abuse feels tacky. Still, it all adds up to a weird window into the need to be wanted, and one person’s undeniably creative solution.