Full Review: JT LEROY (USA/UK/Canada 2018)

JT LeRoy Poster

A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.


Justin Kelly


Justin KellySavannah Knoop (memoir) | 1 more credit »

The film opens with Savannah (Kristen Stewart) being fetched from the airport by her brother-in-law.  Slowly but surely the film introduces its characters including Laura Albert.

Laura Albert (Laura Dern) writes tough, insightful fiction under a pseudonym, JT LeRoy.  The full name of the pseudonym is Jeremy Terminator Leroy, which incidentally is also the original title of the film that served as the Closing Night Gala last last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

JT is not just a pen name but a whole persona, a teenage boy from West Virginia living a dangerous life as a truck stop sex worker.  Laura was born in Brooklyn a generation earlier, and grew up in New York’s punk scene.  Writing books such as The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as JT gives her complete freedom to explore the darker regions of human experience. Readers and the media apparently love it so much that they begin to demand JT in person.  

As journalists press for interviews with JT, turmoil mounts with Laura’s husband Geoffrey (Jim Sturgess) and sister-in-law Savannah (Kristen Stewart).  Partly from desperation, partly for kicks, they conspire to have Savannah don a wig and sunglasses, adjust her voice, and become the teenage boy author.   

This is supposed to be inspired by a true story that is satin San Francisco in 2001.  Despite everything being based on a true story, Kelly’s film is extremely dull.  He makes no attempt to make the events authentic or to make Savannah believable as JT.   Whenever she appears as JT, she mumbles all along and the media and everyone takes it in from Cannes to Paris to the U.S.  

Laura Dern (daughter of Bruce Dern) has proved herself an excellent actress in films like BLUE VELVET and CITIZEN RUTH.   She appears in this film as a free spirited bohemian author filling everyone and forcing her sister and husband to do what she wants.  Her character (and therefore her) is extremely annoying.  The last straw is when Laura pretends to be an obnoxious Brit, complete with outrageous British accent.  As expected, all these things lead nowhere.  Stewart, spotting short hair looking like a lesbian that she really is in life goes through the film mumbling and trying to look cool.  Jim Sturges is wasted as Laura’s husband.

Worst of all is the pretentious bit at the film’s end where Laura preaches to the audience that everyone has to be the person he or she is.

There is nothing really wrong with the film JT LEROY.  But if you would not mind spending 2 hours in a theatre watching annoying characters doing annoying things trying to be cool when in fact they are not, then this film might be for you.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC-6gwt822M&feature=youtu.be

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