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The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things | DVD Review

Prostitution, drugs and the full spectrum of abuse, mental, physical and sexual all befall poor Jeremiah. It’s not that I have no heart; it’s just that I’ve seen all of this far too many times in much stronger films, no less.“…

If you’re reading this review, I’m going to assume that you are not a broken human being beyond any possibility of repair. I’m sure you’ve got your share of issues, hang-ups. So do I. So does my mother. In fact, I just gave away one of mine. And if I try or you try, I’m sure we can hypothesize as to when these issues were born. THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS chronicles the formative years of a young boy named Jeremiah. These are the years that will likely ruin him and this is a film that will ruin you, or at least your day. We meet Jeremiah on the day his biological mother takes him back into her custody from a supposedly stable foster home. Writer/Director, Asia Argento, pulls triple duty by playing the role of Sarah, the mother in question. She sheds her Italian accent to pull off her best Courtney Love impression and it is clear from the start, when she pours what appears to be the only food in the house, a can of processed pasta, into a plastic bowl to serve to Jeremiah as his reunion meal, that he is about to be scarred for life. Jeremiah quickly realizes he needs to run and so should you from the rest of this film. I don’t say this because what follows is harrowing or difficult to stomach. In fact, what follows is essentially expected. Prostitution, drugs and the full spectrum of abuse, mental, physical and sexual all befall poor Jeremiah. It’s not that I have no heart; it’s just that I’ve seen all of this far too many times in much stronger films, no less. This film thinks that painful subject matter and a dirty look are all you need to punch your audience in the gut but they’ve forgotten about authenticity, believability. From the moment Jeremiah, played very serenely by then eight-year-old, Jimmy Bennett, is pretty much left alone after his mother rips him from his home, one cannot help but wonder why this woman even fought to have this child. He only cramps her lifestyle of men and pills so why take on the responsibility? Is it just that she couldn’t stomach the concept of her offspring growing up in a healthy environment? That she is ruined and therefore so must he be? It just doesn’t ring true.

Truth haunts this film. It was made and screened at the Cannes film festival in 2004. Since that time, it has come to light that the author of the collection of short stories that inspired this film, JT Leroy, is not everything she claims to be. First of all, she used to be a man. Secondly, and arguably much more important in the context of this film review, she did not write these stories that are supposed to have been accounts of her upbringing. Whereas packaging this story as a truly horrifying account of one’s actual experiences lends the validity necessary to carry it through, that element is now lacking. The stories were in fact written by a San Francisco author by the name of Laura Albert. This hoax, which the tagline of the film boasts to be the greatest hoax of our time, is the central focus of one of the grating featurettes on this DVD.

A poorly constructed montage of the February 2006 New York premiere of the film shows the behind-the-scenes people gathering to field questions about the validity of this project after the hoax bomb has been dropped. Argento crassly addresses the sparsely filled theatre by claiming that truth does not exist in any circumstance. When her film relentlessly beats up it’s young hero to the point where even a therapy sessions is traumatic, I believe striving to achieve truth, whether you believe it attainable or not, should be attempted. The featurette continues with footage of pretentious, art-house folk partying it up as if they believe people want to see them. I have a truth for them they won’t like.

Aside from this, there is another featurette that is truly unwatchable as the camera never focuses on one person and the interview being conducted is barely audible. The most interesting insight into the film comes with the director commentary. At this point, I can only see Argento as a spoiled, poseur spawned by Italian film icons, Director Dario Argento and actress Daria Nicolodi. Her commentary is groggy and self-involved but it also affirms her greatest love outside of herself, filmmaking. She cared greatly about putting this project together and getting it to look exactly as it did in her head when she read the book. That and I think she makes mention of arguing with almost every actor that had a cameo in her film. Also look for an insert inside the DVD covercase – a collection of photographs of Asia, JT and other celebs that do or do not populate the film by photographer Mick Rock.

There is a moment in THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS where Jeremiah, now in his early teens and being played by identical twins, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, has been without his mother for three years. She shows up out of nowhere to take him away again for no reason and this time he sees that this is without purpose. So he asks, why should he go with her? “Because I’m your mother,” is the response. The hollow echo of meaningless underlying this entire film resonates most loudly right then.

Movie rating – 2

Disc Rating – 2

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