Saturday, October 15, 2016

The JT Leroy Story (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The JT LeRoy Story

Director Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil and Daniel Johnston, The Real Rocky) has always been edgy and provocative in delivering many true stories of the art world, and in "Author: The JT LeRoy Story," he does not disappoint.

In the mid-1990s, a young teen boy from West Virginia called a suicide hotline as an abuse survivor. He was contacted by a Doctor Owens. The boy Jeremiah gave his name as "Terminator" and was encouraged to write down his experiences and feelings to help heal. Hundreds of pages followed by fax in a gutzy outspoken style and Dr. Owens was very impressed. Jeremiah was then put in touch with the neo-Beat writer Dennis Cooper and the memoirist Mary Karr encouraged Terminator to submit to anthologies.

He was offered a book deal and hailed as the next William Burroughs for his frenetic accounts of prostitutes and hustlers. When pressed about gender, Terminator said he was mostly male, yet at times he admitted to being female.  The buzz about him increased.

After his books were selling, the boy known as Terminator became JT LeRoy, an androgenous bleach-blond girl or boy, played by Savannah Knoop in public.  Michael Pitt made out with LeRoy and Asia Argento dated her. She was a confidant of Billy Corrigan of Smashing Pumpkins. Filmmakers Gus Van Zant and Asia Argento  pursued her for movie rights. Tom Waits, Bono and Courtney Love were all head over heels for JT LeRoy.

Then at the height of fame, the inexplicable happened. LeRoy's very identity was questioned in New York magazine as a possible hoax. Though "Author: The JT LeRoy Story" has more twists and turns than "The Girl on the Train," it is vivid and startling, for the very fact that it shows the  world of celebrity so hungry for a fresh and arresting voice to champion.

 Feuerzeig, whose last film highlighted the unusual songwriter Daniel Johnston, is no stranger to eccentric people and one is definitely found here. Fans of Warhol and the amoralist Patricia Highsmith will be riveted.

 The last shot itself, accompanied by a Lou Reed song, showing the female LeRoy in sunglasses red lipstick and white blond hair, sums up all of the weird and hypnotic mystery that embodies this film.

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