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The Cult of JT LeRoy2014

  • 3.9
Ethically charged, controversial and confusing, JT's life and death sprang open a Pandora's box of powerful questions about literature and culture, identity and celebrity and the reality of the society we live in. Fraud? Art? Sociopathy? Complicity? THE CULT OF JT LEROY is a testament to this bizarre and elaborate story that has captured the attention and fascination of the world's media, and perplexes to this day. JT LeRoy was a teen prostitute, addicted to heroin and infected with HIV, when a therapist encouraged him to write his life story. Buoyed by a cadre of celebrities, he published three critically acclaimed books, including "Sarah" and "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things." But as his fame skyrocketed, the shocking truth emerged: JT was not what he seemed. What followed was a downfall as bewildering as it was tragic. Drawn into LeRoy's inner circle before the truth came to light, filmmaker Marjorie Sturm was misled like many others. Through intimate interviews with many close to the tarnished figure, Sturm attempts to untangle what really happened, and in the process explores how his deception called into question not only the value of LeRoy's writing absent authenticity, but our culture's complicity with the author's seductive cult of personality.

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"...JT LeRoy, the once sensationally troubled young author invented and impersonated by the now sensationally troubled older author Laura Albert, has become a saga—whether heroic or ironic definitely will depend who you ask." - Jonathan Kiefer, Keyframe


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Member Reviews (12)

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top reviewer

It is difficult to describe this film without spoiling too much about it, because its power is so deeply rooted in the unique problematics of its subject. Not only is the subject - the reclusive and young titular writer - complex and compelling, but the complexity is merely one part of the whole drama which includes and implicates the literati and stardom of San Francisco and beyond. The film does a good job of not merely studying the Dostoievskian character of JT, but investigates the spectacle of fame, the immersion of cults, and the slippery, cerebral question of how and if people could be true, or false.

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top reviewer

Great documentary, I'm impressed by the projection of the story in chronological order. Amazing topic and discoveries of this famous Author. The truth always comes out to broad daylight, yet the originality and drive is undoubtedly an aspect to admire. This doc will make you feel things!

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top reviewer

Fascinating. Chilling. And yes, punk rock.

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top reviewer

Fascinating and informative. The sound is spotty and the camera work undistinguished.

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Loved it!

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Thought provoking and difficult to watch. It provides an uncluttered and raw view of celebrity and the willingness of people to be fooled, it seems, if by supporting the hyped person uncritically it will reflect well on themselves.

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Fascinating subject, well executed documentary

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filmmaker

Really fascinating film, well made! Very curious to see how it compares to the glossier, Amazon backed project by Jeff Feuerzeig. Really compelling subject matter tho...

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top reviewer

Marjorie Sturm's documentary tackles more than the hoax of "JT LeRoy" it actually ends up reflecting on questions of sanity, identity, celebrity, delusion, challenges of being a woman and more than anything else the rage of betrayal. She chose an exceptional title for her film.

Like many people, I was drawn to the writing of "JT LeRoy." It resonated deeply for me. What always puzzled me about the reaction of fellow readers to the revelation that suddenly those books were invalid because they had been written by a middle-aged woman using a pseudonym. It is interesting to hear several of the "talking heads" now shrug and say the writing simply no longer stands. In my view, it does.

As Sturm's film points out, the whole "game" of selling "JT LeRoy" as an actual person who spent 10 years of her life talking to successful writers and a professional therapist was going way too far. Even more when it studies the impact of further "selling" her sister-in-law as the actual "JT LeRoy" to gain entrance to celebrity -- we gain a deeply sad insight to the level of cruelty in this game.

The documentary is not afraid to allow those fooled into giving money, tears and love to something that was never real to vent their anger. It is justifiable. And it is sociologically and psychologically interesting.

The bravest aspect of this film is that it also brings focus to the therapist who was fooled into the trap of "JT LeRoy." ...And it shows how this therapist has risen above the shame and frustration to continue to treat the woman who called herself "JT LeRoy." As we listen to his descriptions provided via deposition tape -- and the descriptions of those interviewed, it becomes clear that while the writing might not have been "true" -- it most certainly reflects the fragmented mind of its creator.

We might not fully understand or ever know the full story regarding the therapist who continues to treat her. Did he benefit financially? But it is quite clear that Laura Albert is a dee

Good stuff. I remember when this all went down.

Great movie...This one will stay with me for a while. I watched this film totally unaware of its premise or the hoax that was J.T. Leroy. I didn't even read the reviews or synopsis, so it was interesting for me to see the story unfold. Having said that, I gotta say: The first time I saw "JT Leroy" on film I thought to myself, "That's not a teenage boy. He has no Adam's apple. That looks like a girl....." The biggest question I still have -- and one that the film attempted to answer -- is -- how could these celebrities and writers have been so damn gullible? If it sounds too good to be true.......