Sundance London film review: Author: The JT LeRoy Story Print
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 04 June 2016 07:40

Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Cast: Laura Albert
Showtimes: 4th / 5th June

Truth is stranger than fiction, Mark Twain once said - but what about when truth is fiction? In the 1990s, that was exactly the case, when a talented author, JT LeRoy, became an overnight sensation. He was young, talented, a prostitute turned artist turned celebrity. He also didn't exist: he was the creation of Laura Albert, a mother from Brooklyn.

What started out as a pen name soon took on a life of his own, as JT was hailed by stars such as Winona Ryder and Bono - despite the fact that his initials actually stood for "Jeremiah Terminator". Roping in her sister, Savannah, to play LeRoy in public - and even Savannah's musician boyfriend to support the act, Laura's little white lie spirals into a web of lies and celebrated song lyrics.

Director Jeff Feuerzeig picks apart the myth with gripping precision, walking us step by step to the moment of discovery. By the time her second novel is turned into a film that debuts at Cannes, we're shocked but somehow unsurprised. That's thanks to Albert herself, who doesn't shy away from offering her take on events throughout. And, sure enough, she's a gifted presenter, given the main stage to narrate events without interruption from her no doubt many detractors.

What emerges is a sensitive study of stories and storytellers - a look at someone who claims that all she wanted was to be a normal human being. It's perhaps revealing that she compares her plight halfway through to The Prince and the Pauper, rather than any real life incident, but Feuerzeig's film resists the urge to psychoanalyse its subject, letting her speak for herself. Whether you believe what she says is another matter entirely, but you'll be hooked on every word. "It's the most exciting thing to get a response to a book I never meant to write," she observes. It's truth. It's fiction. And it's fascinating to watch.