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Film Reviews Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern’s literary-hoax drama JT LeRoy will leave you feeling scammed

Jim Sturgess, Kristen Stewart, and Laura Dern in JT LeRoy.

Allen Fraser/Handout

  • JT LeRoy
  • Directed by Justin Kelly
  • Written by Justin Kelly and Savannah Knoop
  • Starring Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern
  • Classification 14A
  • 108 minutes

rating

If truth is stranger than fiction, then why is JT LeRoy so plainly uninspired? Director Justin Kelly’s attempt to demystify a bizarre cultural scandal, JT LeRoy, has much in its favour: two top-tier performers in Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, a Hollywood setting ripe for satire and a deliciously weird-but-real tale at its core.

How Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern dissected the tough-to-swallow layers of the JT LeRoy literary scandal

Yet despite the efforts of its stars and the inherent juiciness of its source material, the film falls flat when it should bounce with surreal glee. Perhaps it’s because Kelly is only telling half a story here, with his film ignoring the motivations behind exactly why author Laura Albert (Dern) decided to make up a literary persona named “JT LeRoy,” and instead focusing on how she gently coerced her sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop (Stewart), into maintaining the ruse.

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There is little mystery as to why Kelly has chosen to side with Knoop – her name is right up front as the film’s co-screenwriter – but that doesn’t lessen the narrative and stylistic disappointment that follows.

JT LeRoy opens May 3 in Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton

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