Entertainment » Movies

The Cult Of JT Leroy

by Tony Pinizzotto
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Sep 14, 2015
'The Cult of JT LeRoy'
'The Cult of JT LeRoy'  

In 2001 juvenile author JT LeRoy took the literary world by storm. He had seen a tough world -- born the son of a 14-year-old truck-stop prostitute, abandoned and sexually abused on the streets of San Francisco, HIV positive, and planning a transgender future. He took to writing. But not all was what is seemed to be, and JT LeRoy was harboring an even more complicated past of secrets, unveiling themselves while filmmaker Marjorie Sturm began her work on the chilling film documentary "The Cult of JT LeRoy."

Sturm began shooting her film biopic in 2002, just as LeRoy began to crest in the San Franciscan and New York literary circles. Celebrities and star musicians flocked to the opportunity to be chosen as a guest reader of LeRoy's work at various signings and appearances. LeRoy was painfully shy and hardly ever appeared behind the podium for these readings. Lou Reed, Jeremy Renner, Sandra Bernhard, Susan Dey, Debbie Harry, Michael Musto, Gus Van Sant, and many more all claimed to know the elusive LeRoy. Bolstered by a key group of celebrities, LeRoy went on to publish several more books, all digging to the inner depths of his heartache and pathos. But when LeRoy's past caught up with him, shortly after his "death" in 2006, he left fans angered and astonished... while others knew many of their suspicions were legit.

Lucky for Sturm, LeRoy's legacy and literary world had false identities and she captured the series of events that is a fascinating multi-layered and complicated truth.

Sturm's documentary accomplishes what every great biopic should, having had the real life events roll out while she was in the producing thick of it. Had she released the film just a few years after she began, LeRoy's complete story would have puzzle pieces missing. Sturm bulldozes into her subject matter. Lucky for Sturm, LeRoy's legacy and literary world had false identities, and she captured the series of events that is a fascinating multi-layered and complicated truth. Without tipping the hat for viewers of "The Cult of JT LeRoy," the real story of LeRoy's past, and the LGBT writers who began connecting the dots in that story, is a Pandora's Box of truths as rich and textured as his fabricated past.

"The Cult of JT LeRoy" contains footage shot throughout the ordeal. It jolts its viewers into dumbfounded astonishment, after investing their trust and empathy for LeRoy, the way many of his readers grew to love his work. The film is a testament to how fame and fortune in our world's media-influenced lifestyle begs for heroes and champions, and our human nature, putting people on a pedestal long enough to see who they truly are. Although we first raise them up, we don't always see them from a correct perspective until they fall from that pedestal, smashing to a million revealing bits on the ground.

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