Thursday, September 22, 2016

Watch Jeff Feuerzeig's AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY -- and you may feel the need to bathe

Boy, that "truth" thing! Ain't it a bitch? Here comes yet another new documentary in which, for all I know, literally everything we're dished out here is the "truth." However, since everything about the original situation is also a lie, which, as lies are wont to do, begins spinning off more and more lies in order to keep the original in place, what we're soon engaging with is something so grandly nefarious that one might call it "the whopper of 'em all." Still, what the hell: If Jayson Blair can get his very own movie, why not JT Leroy?

Jeff Feuerzeig, who wrote and directed AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY, begins his film with a quote from Federico Fellini about creativity and truth -- A created thing is never invented and it is never true: It is always and ever itself -- that is clearly designed (by Feuerzeig, not by the late Signore Fellini) as an excuse for all that follows. Though it does not in the least manage the necessary excusing, it does prove but the first of many things about this fascinating-but-sleazy documentary that waves a red flag.

In truth, I would not know how to go about making an honest documentary about a situation like this, and perhaps Mr. Feuerzeig, realizing that he faced the same dilemma, chose what looks, more and more as the movie unfolds, like the easiest route. He simply hands the documentary over to its "protagonist," a woman named Laura Albert (above) who devised the whole JT Leroy scam and then brought it to pulsating, media-savvy life -- in the process, turning it into one of the most infamous, crazy, we've-conned-you-good! literary hoaxes in the history of, well, literature.

The above description sounds tasty enough to suck you in, no? Then why does this documentary begin to reek so foully, so quickly? TrustMovies thinks it's because Ms Albert never once in the entire proceedings shoulders any real responsibility for wrong-doing. She tells her tale as though it were just the most enjoyable, amusing and necessary thing to do. Now, if you feel, as Albert clearly does, that making up a story but labeling it as a true memoir, then creating the character who supposedly wrote the thing -- different age and different sex from the actual author -- in order to gain some of that wonderful stuff called fame is simply A-OK, then you'll probably embrace the documentary as all-fun-and-games.

Along the way, Albert, together with her Leroy creation (a gay, abused, teenage, would-be transgendered street urchin/hustler just longing for a world into which s/he can fit) cons everyone from supposed literature connoisseurs to celebrities in just about every field from music to movies to books to you-name-it. And, of course, the media just goes wild over a story (drugs. sex, prostitution, abuse) and a storyteller (under-age sex, queer and tearful) like this. In terms of lies and pretense, only the Donald could Trump it -- and, as we know, the media sure has given him plenty of undue attention.

What Albert really craved was success and celebrity above all, and from what we see here, she still does. And so the doc certainly shows us clearly and precisely how our culture of celebrity spawns more of the same, while feeding off itself in the process.

From filmmaker Gus van Sant -- who would of course gravitate toward someone of Leroy's ilk and is conned to a fare-thee-well (that's he above, right, with Albert and actor Michael Pitt) -- to television writer David Milch to actress turned director Asia Argento (below, right), the gullible just keep falling fast and hard. Ms Argento evens stars in and directs a so-so movie based on the LeRoy's "masterwork," The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.

No one involved with Albert is safe, with doctors and analysts coming off as especially easy marks. Now, evidently, most of these folk are angry at Albert for putting them through the wringer once again via the new documentary. Well, honeys: You deserve each other. Whether or not the audience deserves to sit through this film is another question. Several times during and again at the end, I found myself muttering, Who gives a shit? I sure didn't, but then I also didn't follow Leroy's career during its ascendancy nor much during the scandal that followed.

If you followed that trajectory, the movie might just be your cup of whatever. Certainly it is full of details as to how the big lie was foisted upon us, and those details are often pretty amazing. And amusing. Overall though, it would seem as if Ms Albert is simply praying for this doc to hit pay dirt and provide her with a second round of celebrity and fame.
Good luck, dear.

From Magnolia Pictures and running a rather lengthy, considering its "true" content, one hour and fifty minutes, the movie -- after hitting the bigger cities and more noted cultural centers over the past couple of weeks -- opens here in South Florida tomorrow in Miami area at the O Cinema, Wynwood. You can click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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