Based on a true story, JT LeRoy offers a great hook and solid performances. For a story this interesting however, the film does lack vivacity.
Laura pens a bestselling novel under the pseudonym JT LeRoy. When she is asked to do publicity for the book, Laura enlists her sister-in-law Savannah to take on the imaginary persona…
Directed by Justin Kelly, based on the screenplay by Kelly and Savannah Knoop herself, JT LeRoy offers quite the premise. It is a real stranger-than-fiction plot; a simple deception of an author’s identity gets out of hand as her book grows in popularity. Similar themes to Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? are present, although this film lacks the memorability of Heller’s film.
The theme of identity is obviously key. Nevertheless, the focus on being heard, and reluctance of Savannah, come into play after the first third. The voiceovers early on give a good feel for the source material.
The change in the main characters’ demeanours is portrayed well. Pulling the focus from Laura to Savannah functions to give the JT LeRoy a more somber tone. After the deception comes out, Laura is given more attention once more. The difference in the way the two women deal with it again highlight their distinct personalities.
Savannah’s relationship with Sean is not really developed to begin with. In the context of Savannah’s deception, this relationship functions merely to illustrate her mindset. This is not wholly a bad thing, JT LeRoy gives an insight into why she would take part in such a deception. Nevertheless, the relationship is not fleshed out sufficiently.
The Paris scenes create tension well. Kelly knows when to use music and when to hold back. The film loses a bit of momentum in the middle third. It loses pep of first third, but is a thoughtful centre. The final third sees the deception unravel.
Laura Dern is a ball of energy, really driving the film along. An understated Kristen Stewart is a good contrast to her. Diane Krueger is also good in a small role, while Jim Sturgess is not given a lot to do. Costumes and styling are good, as is the editing.
The energy of Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin’ over the end credits is the energy viewers may have hoped director Justin Kelly would bring to film. JT LeRoy is more pensive. This really works at times, although it can leave the film feeling a little flat.
JT LeRoy is out in cinemas and on Digital HD on 16th August 2019.