There’s nothing more suspicious than a film starring two of the best contemporary lead actresses working today, being completely shoved under the rug for a couple months, and merely a few weeks before it’s theatrical release, promotional material is released online. After premiering as the closing night film at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, with mixed to solid reactions from audiences and critics alike, Jeremiah Terminator Leroy ended up becoming one of 2019’s biggest cinematic enigmas. Why did it take so long for this film to release, if the cast and marketable material was just sitting there this whole time? Why isn’t a story of this extraordinary caliber presented in a larger market? All of these questions remain semi-unanswered. However, the one question that I can answer, is if this film is any good.
Thankfully, although my ulterior suspicion on the film’s sketchy distribution cycle, and some general negative word to mouth among close friends did create an undeserving stigma from the get go, J.T. LeRoy is formidable biopic, with some intriguing ideas and concepts, which unfortunately doesn’t feel fully fleshed out, by the time the credits role. For starters, albeit it’s outrageous content, involving the real life absurd true story of Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy, a fictional pen name for a certain woman’s closeted desires, the film somehow manages to feel formulaic. Although it’s usage of narration, through the perspective of Laura’s imitation of J.T. LeRoy felt certainly refreshing, every time the film cut to black, there just wasn’t enough material here to hold its own weight.
For the most part, it’s decently shot, adequately written, entertainment that feels all too predictable in it’s narrative structure. Whenever one looks at a Biopic, it’s important to see how the material is executed, over the interest of the material itself. At the end of the day, this incredible real-life story just feels slightly out of touch. This goes without saying however, that Dern and Stewart knocked it out of the park. Utilizing the most of what they could use with their limited artistic approach through the direction and script, there playful dynamic, and heart wrenching portrayal of very real persona’s feels lifelike, and ultimately accomplishes the goal the film set out to do in the first place.
Although far from a disaster-fest, there could have been a lot more done to improve the worthy adaptation of Savannah Knoop’s outrageously gorgeous tale. Even with the select few successful elements in place with the film’s existing content, it’s unfortunate to state that J.T. LeRoy may need another makeover and disguise. For now, maybe it’s best to talk about this real-life tale, rather than exploit it through the medium of cinema.
J.T. LeRoy will open in select Canadian Cinemas This Friday