8pm, Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave @ 2nd Street
"Asia Argento, woman director and star in her own new movie, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, does something remarkable— she doesn't try to look good. In fact, she looks like hell, and I know few directors, and fewer stars who are brave enough to show their unmitigated dark side, with all its swollen reddish green blemishes, splotchy skin, inability to love, desire to hurt— all that true to life ugly stuff that we usually prefer to hide from others and ourselves. Asia lets it all hang out." — Nina Menkes, Senses of Cinema
Based on JT LeRoy’s autobiographical novel of the same name, the screenplay is a close read of the original text. Argento adds a hard-edged beauty to LeRoy’s tale, while retaining the novel’s deft depiction of the inner world of a boy growing up in a brutal world.
After Jeremiah’s mother Sarah (Asia Argento) reclaims him from his loving foster family, he’s dragged kicking and screaming into her world of drugs, prostitution and narcissistic manipulation. Jeremiah (played early on by Jimmy Bennett, and later by both Dylan and Cole Spruce) quickly learns seduction as a survival skill, finding his self-preservation encased within an array of changing identities. Jeremiah faces a ceaseless string of aggressors, from abusive boyfriends (Marilyn Manson, Jeremy Sisto), to an unsympathetic evangelical grandfather (Peter Fonda), to a backward social worker (Winona Ryder).
Of all the adults who betray him, worst of all is his mother. Sarah convinces him at every turn that his fate is his own doing, and concocts cruel threats to keep him at her side. Convincing Jeremiah that nobody can help him, she creates a warped, paranoid reality, leaving him a defenseless accomplice to her dysfunctions.