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Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy
dir Justin Kelly
scr Justin Kelly, Savannah Knoop
prd Patrick Walmsley, Julie Yorn, Thor Bradwell, Gary Pearl, Cassian Elwes
with Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Diane Kruger, Jim Sturgess, Courtney Love, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Stella Maxwell, Adam Hurtig, James Jagger, David Lawrence Brown, Alicia Johnston, Will Woytowich
release UK Mar.19 flare,
US 26.Apr.19
19/Canada 1h48

dern kruger love
See also:
The Heart Is Deceitful (2005) Author (2016)

TORONTO FILM FEST
flare film fest


sturgess, stewart, dern
After the terrific 2016 documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story, these true events are dramatised with knock-out performances from Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern. Director Justin Kelly keeps the pacing brisk, never wallowing in the melodrama as he explores issues of identity and connection from fresh angles. It's still a rather mind-boggling story, but this film cleverly humanises the characters, revealing their flaws without vilifying them.
In 2001, Savannah (Stewart) moves to San Francisco to live with her brother Geoff (Sturgess) and his colourful girlfriend Laura (Dern), who has just published a best-selling novel under the name JT LeRoy. Putting on her alter-ego, Laura speaks to high-profile fans on the phone. And Savannah looks rather like Laura's image of JT, an abused, androgynous 19-year-old boy. So together they assume new identities to meet people as JT and his chatty British manager Speedie. But while they are working with European actress Eva (Kruger) to make a movie, Savannah falls in love.
Based on Knoop's memoir, the film sticks to her perspective, revealing Laura Albert's increasingly nutty behaviour as Savannah reacts with a disbelieving smirk to each crazy idea. Thankfully, Kelly balances the wackiness with a realistic tone, so the film is funny, honest and involving. As the characters grapple with self-image while pretending to be someone else, some scenes may feel contrived. But the truth is definitely stranger than the fiction.

Stewart is solid in the less-flashy role, quietly depicting Savannah's determination to distance herself from Laura's deception while also getting lost in it. Kruger is superb as Eva, and the connection between them is surprisingly edgy. The fallout for each of them is also nicely played. But this is Dern's show, and she's both magnetic and compelling as the mercurial Laura. She also bravely never lowers the mask, remaining within her shifting reality even when she opens up about her childhood.

It's the film's refusal to explain anything away that makes it particularly notable. It would have been easy to blame Laura's fantasist fraud on her early life experiences, but Kelly hints that even that is part of the larger blur of fact and fabrication. Laura is clearly a brilliant writer, able to create work that speaks meaningfully from deep within a fictional perspective. The reality, of course, is much more complicated. And this movie encourages us to take a more honest look at our own mythology.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 31.Mar.19 flare

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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