A hard-to-believe literary scam that actually occurred swirls around identity and relational angling intriguingly enough for a while.
JT Leroy (moving from the late ’90s into the early ’00s) stars Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, and comes across better than the tangled material from co-writer/director Justin Kelly mainly because of the mutualism between their unlike, shaded characters.
Stewart’s diffident, hesitant Savannah Knoop (the other script collaborator) gets to be the fictional author (you see she fits the androgynous, graceless type) duping readers and journalists publishing personal, risqué tales while on the road with his harlot mother. It happens after leaving home in the Windy City for the Bay City to reconnect with her brother Geoffrey (Jim Sturgess) and sister-in-law Laura Albert (Dern) who both are aspiring musicians. But, she learns that Laura supplies the deception through phone conversations and acquiesces to be the slippery JT (Jeremiah Terminator) when a magazine requests a photo shoot.
Interviews, press junkets, and trips abroad ensue with complications when Savannah becomes fond of actress/director Eva (Diane Kruger of National Treasure, Welcome To Marwen) looking for the rights to adapt a JT novel for the big screen. Kelly isn’t quite that sure-handed to adroitly handle the narrative wrenches when prevarications spiral to maintain celebrity standing. If one locates Kelly’s intent from the aspect of these peddlers they might be able to get past the set-up and the overall superficiality, even as a childhood is divulged.
Also, when Stewart and Dern (who united previously in Kelly Reicardt’s Certain Women) are together there is a tangible, tingling quality to behold; Kruger adds an edginess to the mix. In a less meatier part Stewart (transitioning pretty well in recent years from films like Still Alice to Personal Shopper after Twilight success) really isn’t as vacuous as possibly perceived (given qualities like mumbling). The conflict felt by Savannah and who she embodies is in sync fairly well with Dern’s doting, guileful manager; a blithe gusty presence also amusingly doubling as British agent Speedy.