Film Review: JT LeRoy

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.

Previews: Queen & Slim, The Irishman, more!

Lots of tantalising clips in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Queen & Slim trailer, The Irishman, JT LeRoy, and more…

Queen & Slim Trailer

Here is the brand new Queen & Slim trailer. The trailer gives allusions of Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise with its couple on the run premise, albeit with a very contemporary edge. The film is written by Lena Waithe, and directed by Melina Matsoukas. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim is coming soon to cinemas.

The Irishman Trailer

Finally the trailer for one of the year’s most anticipated films is here. The Irishman sees Martin Scorsese re-team with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Additions to the cast include Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, and Anna Paquin. Written by Steve Zalillian, The Irishman is about a hitman who worked alongside some of the 20th century’s most notorious figures. The Irishman will be released in select UK cinemas and on Netflix this Autumn.

JT LeRoy Trailer

JT LeRoy tells the story of one of the literary world’s most infamous hoaxes. The film stars Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Diane Kruger, and Jim Sturgess. Directed by Justin Kelly, JT LeRoy will be released in cinemas and on Digital HD on 16th August 2019.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood Trailer

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood feels like the kind of film we need about now. The film is about Mister Rogers and his friendship with journalist Tom Junod. Directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), the film stars Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is set for release in UK cinemas on 6th December 2019.

Zombieland: Double Tap Trailer

Here is the trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap. A belated sequel to the 2009 hit Zombieland, the film sees director Ruben Fleischer reunite with stars Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin. Zombieland: Double Tap hits UK screens on 18th October 2019.

Film Review: In The Fade

Fatih Akin’s In The Fade is a compelling crime drama. The film is elevated by a tour de force performance from Diane Kruger.

When Katja says goodbye to her husband and young son for a day out, she has no idea what will later unfold. After a tragedy, Katja seeks justice, and later retribution…

Written, directed, and produced by Fatih Akin, In The Fade is a crime drama with a very contemporary resonance. The film explores various themes, including grief, the justice system, extreme ideologies, and revenge. The story is told in three acts; the first focuses on Katja’s relationship with her family and the immediate fallout from the tragedy, the second on the court case, and the final on Katja wanting to exact revenge.

Akin’s film is impactful, even if the acts are a little uneven. The first act conveys the strength of feeling, and the depths of grief. Katja is a great protagonist in that she is imperfect but evokes empathy throughout. The middle act focuses on the court case, and feels procedure-heavy at times. Nevertheless, there are a couple of scenes which are striking and stirring. Perhaps the most difficult scene is that in which an investigator details the nature of the injuries. Akin delivers this scene in a clinical yet devastating manner.

The final act ramps up the tension, with Akin offering an uneasiness and a sense of inevitability as the film draws to its climax. Diane Kruger is utterly convincing throughout, portraying the sharpness of grief, as well as righteous rage. Denis Moschitto offers good support, but really the film is all about Kruger’s Katja. Other characters adhere to archetypes, but this is a minor quibble.

In The Fade is an affecting depiction of the after effects of terrorism, whilst bringing into view contemporary targets and culprits.

In The Fade is released in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 22nd June 2018.


Previews: Nine Lives Trailer, Deadpool and more!

Plenty in this week’s preview of upcoming films, including the Nine Lives trailer, a Deadpool clip, Zoolander 2 and more…

Nine Lives Trailer

Talking animal film alert! A cat is at the centre of the film in the Nine Lives trailer. The film tells the story of a billionaire businessman who finds himself trapped in the body of the family cat. Starring Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken, Nine Lives is set for release later this year.

Deadpool Clip

What is clear from the fantastic marketing for the film is that Deadpool is not for children. This clip falls in line with what has been revealed. Deadpool looks as if it will be a heady mix of comedy and action. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, and Gina Careno, Deadpool hits UK screens on 10th February 2016.

Zoolander 2 Commercial

Here is a spoof commercial for Zoolander 2. The clip offers us a insight into Kristen Wiig’s character Alexanya Atoz. The film certainly continues the theme of parodying the fashion industry. Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell reprise their roles in Zoolander 2, which opens in UK cinemas on 12th February 2016.

The Secret Life of Pets Poster and Trailer

The Secret Lives of Pets poster

Here is a poster for one of the most anticipated films of the summer (in my eyes at least). The Secret Life of Pets answers one of lives quintessential questions; what do pets do whilst their humans are at work? With the voices of Louis C.K., Kevin Hart and Eric Stonestreet, The Secret Life of Pets will be released on 24th June 2016.

Disorder Trailer

Disorder focuses on a secret service soldier who takes a private job protecting a wealthy family. Matthias Schoenaerts stars as the soldier, and Diane Kruger as the wife of the wealthy businessman. Disorder will receive its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on 21st February, and will be released in cinemas on 25th March 2016.

Eddie The Eagle Trailer

Eddie The Eagle tells the story of Michael Edwards and his determination to become Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper. The film stars Taron Egerton in the title role, and Hugh Jackman as Eddie’s coach. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, Eddie The Eagle is out in UK cinemas on 1st April 2016.

Film Review: Unknown

Unknown functions pretty much as The Bourne Identity meets Salt, but sadly is closer to the latter in terms of quality. The film is mildly entertaining, if you can overlook the incredulity.

Dr Martin Harris arrives in Berlin with his wife, to attend a conference. After forgetting his briefcase at the airport, Martin heads back in a cab to collect it, but does not make it there after a car accident. When Martin wakes, he finds that someone else has taken his identity…

The narrative of Unknown is comparable to that of a television special or a made-for-TV movie. The plot appears hackneyed; it is easy to spot the numerous ideas borrowed from other films. The twists in Unknown become more incredulous as the film continues, requiring a healthy suspension of disbelief.

Where Unknown differentiates itself from similar television specials and cements itself as a Hollywood film is in the large-scale set pieces. The stunts and action sequences are well executed, and really help in injecting momentum into the film. As an action film, Unknown works well; it is a pity that a similar level of effort was not put into the script.

The narrative of Unknown is propped up by a number of twists. These are critical to a thriller such as this, but unfortunately each turn makes the film more ridiculous. What does not help is the fact that each revealing piece of information is accompanied by heightened music. It is as if the sound editor is attempting to compel the audience to feel shocked at the revelations. However, this does not have the desired effect, and at times can appear unintentionally comical.

As Martin Harris, Liam Neeson is a watchable protagonist. The role is definitely in Neeson’s comfort zone, and is never a stretch for him. January Jones appears artificial as Elizabeth Harris; she is never really that believable at any stage in the film. Diane Kruger is decent as unwitting taxi driver Gina, although her Eastern European accent is patchy. Frank Langella is underused in Unknown. The veteran actor has such presence; it is a shame that he was not given a meatier role.

Combining the plot of a TV movie with the aesthetics of a big-budget Hollywood film, Unknown fails to hit the target. It is by no means painful viewing, but it is unlikely to win much praise either. Recommended viewing for those who enjoyed Salt.