JT LeRoy

Based on the incredible true lie

Based on a true story, JT LeRoy stars a mind-bogglingly fitting Kristen Stewart in the role of Savannah Knoop, who spent six years in the fake shoes of the renowned yet completely fabricated author JT LeRoy. Director Justin Kelly’s feature is based on Knoop’s memoir and grapples with individuality, sexuality, sexism and to some degree, even ageism in both entertainment and the literary world.

The fake author named JT LeRoy was invented by Knoop’s sister-in-law Laura Albert (Laura Dern, who makes playing multiple characters look so easy), a writer living a double life. Having pretended to be the successful, mysterious JT on the phone to journalists for years, she reaches a point where she needs a collaborating avatar. Her prayers get answered when she meets her boyfriend’s sister Savannah; a quiet, awkward and shyly charismatic bisexual woman less than thrilled with the idea. In no time at all though, Laura lures her into playing JT, talking up the power of roleplay and the realness it can possess. At an aimless spot with her own life, Savannah reluctantly accepts the indecent proposal. Enter clumsy wigs, grungy clothes and an Asia Argento-like film diva (Diane Kruger), adamant to bring one of LeRoy’s books to screen.

Identities within identities, the true tale of a fraud and society’s willingness to buy entertainment at face value already make JT LeRoy a rich and rewarding watch; but when the individual trajectories of Savannah and Laura clash in competitive and destructive ways, the film deepens even further. Laura instinctually knows her real identity could only have gotten her so far in her field, whereas Savannah temporarily settles into the fake image she hides beneath, perhaps feeling freer and more powerful in her skin than she’s ever felt.

– Tomris Laffly,


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