’You couldn’t make it up’ is a phrase that springs to mind when watching the mind-boggling story of JT LeRoy. And yet, this 1990s-set tale is all about a real-life invention. Bohemian writer Laura Albert (Laura Dern) pens hit novels under the name of JT LeRoy, assuming the identity of the fictional author during phone calls with publishers and a swelling number of obsessed fans, including celebrities. ‘JT’ is a troubled young queer man, so in-person appearances are beyond even Laura’s capabilities – until her androgynous sister-in-law Savannah Knoop (Kristen Stewart) comes to stay.
Even if you’ve seen the doc ‘Author: The JT LeRoy Story’, you’ll be gripped by Albert’s escalating insanity as she pushes Savannah further into the spotlight. On a welcome break from hand-wringing-mother roles, Dern is terrific as the clever, impetuous and deluded Albert, while Stewart is perfectly cast as the shy, bi-curious Savannah, on whose story this film is based. Diane Kruger also gets to play against type, while Courtney Love does what she does best: herself.
Justin Kelly’s film ponders thoughtfully on compulsion, fame, sexuality and reality, though the pace lulls at times: while darkly amusing, it might have benefited from a zippier comic tone. But it’s well worth watching this cast play out one of the most bizarre events in modern literary history – a modern-day ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ with a hefty dose of bonkers.