The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004)

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004) movie poster

director Asia Argento
viewed: 01/28/2018

Maybe they should have read the title more literally.

“The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things” comes from the Biblical book of Jeremiah. Deceit, indeed.

When Asia Argento adapted J.T. LeRoy’s The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, she really believed it to be the more or less true life tale of a young, troubled boy who went on to literary fame and stardom. She also probably knew by then that the person who would appear as J.T. LeRoy was actually a young woman, not a young man. One way or another, she went into this thing in earnest.

As earnest as her intentions, I wonder how intentionally camp this whole thing was. Because camp it is. Campity-camp-camp-camp.

Argento stars as the mother of the author, speaking with an Italian accent-inflected version of West Virginia trailer park. She is not alone. The cast includes Jeremy Renner, Peter Fonda, Michael Pitt, Lydia Lunch, Winona Ryder, and Marilyn Manson.

It’s a tale of abuse, outsized abuse, to a young boy (played very well by Jimmy Bennett as the youngest, and twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse, a little older).  Were it all true, it would be lurid enough. Would it be quite as camp?

This movie is like a super-loaded drunk who just doesn’t know when to quit.

And strangely, somehow, even though it’s like nine parts hilarious and ridiculous, it also manages to have a soul.

Argento, of all the famous folks, is the person who was the most outrageously deceived and exploited by the J.T. LeRoy cavalcade. She had an intimate relationship with LeRoy’s avatar Savannah Knoop, and she produced this manic wonder of a film, only to find out before its release that she and the world had been duped.

I file this under another unique spot in my film-watching archives: Movies I’d like to watch with John Waters. It’s a cult film waiting to be embraced.

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