Like so many great documentaries, Jeff Feuerzig’s Author is fascinating in the surface story it reveals, and perhaps even more fascinating in what it reveals beneath that surface. The subject is the literary sensation that was author JT Leroy—a transgender survivor of sexual abuse, addiction and a prostitute single mother—who was eventually revealed to be middle-aged mother Laura Albert, with her sister-in-law posing as JT for years. Albert herself narrates most of the story, often punctuated by recorded phone conversations with “JT’s” many celebrity friends and confidants (like Billy Corgan, Courtney Love and Deadwood creator David Milch), revealing the preposterous logistics of keeping up the ruse for so long. But this narrative also picks at the fetishizing of squalid survival narratives, while managing the neat trick of exploring the real-life pain of Laura’s life without completely letting her off the hook. Milch at one point tries to assure Laura that “it’s the quality of the work” that matters, but Author shows how much of what we come to accept as great artistic genius—whether reality or fiction—involves the stories behind those stories.
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