It might be a comedy about a literary fraud, and underscored by the notoriously hype-besotted proclivities of the publishing world, but “Who Is KK Downey?” is the real thing. Feature debut of Montreal’s Kidnapper comedy troupe is a truly funny movie with a garage-sale aesthetic and willful disobedience to the narrative rulebook, but also an unruly knack for transgressive humor and creative vulgarity. B.O. prospects would be utterly dependent on creative salesmanship, but potential exists for cultish, quirky breakout.
Written by Matt Silver and helmers Pat Kiely and Darren Curtis, screenplay is based on the “real-life” story of JT LeRoy, the pseudonym of writer Laura Albert, who perpetrated the character of LeRoy through a panoply of book and movie deals and an elaborate scam involving disguises, stand-ins and the public’s appetite for the sordid.
Setup for “KK Downey” hews close to the truth (whatever that is). When the comically named Theo Huxtable (Silver) submits his novel “Truck Stop Hustler” to smarmy publisher Brett Jones (Paul Spence), the doughy white boy is practically laughed out of the office: Who wants to read a book about a lowlife that isn’t written by one?
But Theo’s pal, the resourceful if generally repugnant Terrence Permenstein (Curtis), concocts a plan: Terrence will become KK Downey, a narcotics-scorched, transgendered hustler, and claim to have authored Theo’s book. KK, of course, becomes a sensation –imagine Bob Dylan playing a streetwalker in a bad wig (the resemblance to JT LeRoy is right on) — and the Kidnapper folks prove they have the mechanics of cultural scammery down cold.
The comedy troupe also boasts cast members with distinct screen personalities: Besides Silver, and Curtis (who might someday play Steve Buscemi’s demented younger brother), the standouts include Kiely as a music journalist who’s stolen Terrence’s g.f. Sue (Kristin Adams), and who is so gleefully hateful in his unbridled egomania that he’s almost likeable — almost.
But all bets are off when Dan Haber’s Frankie Lola hits the screen. Explaining exactly who Frankie is would be telling too much, but Haber is absolutely hysterical, and he disproves the notion that punkish comedies don’t have to peter out by the last act: Frankie pushes the whole movie a step further than any viewer might expect and shifts “Who Is KK Downey?” into high gear.
Production values are appropriately haphazard.