Nine Things About the Film The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things
1. This is the film version of the super-depressing cult novel by J.T. Leroy (the bizarre story of the author is a completely different topic). While the book consists of 10 distinct but connected short stories, the movie sews them all together into a more-or-less coherent story.
2. This low-budget, independent movie follows the childhood of a boy named Jeremiah, and how he is repeatedly abused and dehumanized in just about every way, by just about every adult in his life, as his mentally unstable mother wrecks their world.
3. The movie should come with a trigger warning for child abuse.
4. It was directed by Asia Argento, the daughter of the super-famous Italian movie-maker Dario. Asia stars in the movie as the mother, Sarah (although for most of the movie I thought Uma Thurman was playing the role).
5. The acting in this movie is amazing. Argento is furiously effective as the crazy drug addict prostitute who is unable to stop emotionally abusing her son. And Jimmy Bennett gave a heart-stopping performance as the 7-year-old Jeremiah (Bennett has gone on to have a real acting career, but he deserves more recognition).
6. There are cameos and small roles by a number of actors who are famous in their own circles; Jeremy Sisto, Ben Foster, and Michael Pitt (more hardcore indie film fans will recognize Kip Pardue and John Robinson). Peter Fonda is great as Jimmy's grandfather, the abusive head of a religious cult. Fans of Jeremy Renner may be surprised to know that way before he became a superhero, he was a child molester in this movie. Winona Ryder has a great few minutes playing an insensitive social worker.
7. The movie follows Jeremiah's mental confusion and developmental problems with more guts than most movies about child abuse. One of the emotional climaxes of the movie is a very disturbing encounter with trailer-park-trash Marilyn Manson.
8. By the time the movie spirals into a gender-bending, poison-filled psychological implosion, you see that Jeremiah's dehumanization is a symptom of a more wide-spread sickness of society in general (in a super-meta literary technique, Jeremiah himself is a symbol of the Bible verse that inspired the title of the book and movie).
9. The movie is hard to watch, but it's also almost impossible to turn away. An underground classic with a surprising cast, this is one of the best films I've seen about the mutilation of innocence, and the tragic ways that kids can adapt to almost anything.