Dario Argento is known in the horror genre as one of the gory masters of Italian origin. His daughter Asia Argento has starred in his films and following in his footsteps has become a filmmaker herself. However, with the film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, this beautiful writer/director explored a different type of horror without involving murderous goblins and boogeymen.
The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things gets its title from a Bible verse displayed in the opening of this Asia Argento directed film. Asia also stars in the film as the mother of a young boy, who is the real star of the film as played by Jimmy Bennett and then later Dylan and Cole Sprouse, who she takes with her on a journey through life involving sex, drugs, pain, and insanity. The cast is excellent and filled with many recognizable cameos, such as: Kip Pardue, Peter Fonda, Marilyn Manson, Ben Foster, Jeremy Renner, Jeremy Sisto, Michael Pitt, and Winona Ryder.
This is basically one messed up coming of age story from the viewpoint of a young boy taken from his happy foster home and given back to his mother. It isn’t long before she has him taking speed, drinking beer, and getting beaten and raped by her various boyfriends. The boy is, however, saved by his grandparents and goes to live with them; unfortunately that is in West Virginia and they are strictly religious in a violent psychotic sense. Then the boy’s mother kidnaps him back and a life on the road and an assortment of odd experiences and men ensues. The plot is nothing new overall, though the cast and directing are superb. It is like they take a kid and then just pile on bad thing after worse thing to make him go through and endure it. If you don’t want to stomach a cute kid going through hell, seemingly for your entertainment, then this isn’t the film for you.
The movie is based on the true story of a fictional character, possibly with some truth to the trueness. Don’t reread that last sentence, I wrote what I wrote. What this means is that it is based on the life of book author Laura Albert’s pen name: Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy. Laura Albert is an American writer who used a male name to publish many articles and novels, and even donned a disguise for public events, fooling people. JT LeRoy was the male name and the movie was based off of short stories of his life.
Visually the film is a type of art to be appreciated and regardless of lack of original plot there is indeed a lot of scenic emotion within the film. The children in their roles are excellent, especially the younger version of the boy as played by Jimmy Bennett. Seeing the cute kid in such a perverse atmosphere though is as unsettling as it is mesmerizing. Asia is pure white drug addict trash in the film and yet still can come of with some sex appeal, nailing the role she made for herself. All of the men coming in and out of the story also help make this film hard to turn off. There is a scene with Marilyn Manson being seduced by the young boy that is handled in a very creative and well acted way, and quite frankly I like seeing the shock rocker in movies. Winona Ryder on the female side of the supporting cameos is one of the most pathetic child counselors ever, and yet I am guessing the role was fairly accurate in depiction for many in that position.
The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things is captivating in its own way and the non-ending sort of ending was cool too in my opinion. However, this sort of story has been done before so the rating gets slashed down a bit if I were one to really want to waste my time giving you some stars, or fingers up gimmick instead of just my thoughts of typed ramble; that’s right I would slash off some finger. Most people probably shouldn’t want to see a little kid going through psychotic, drugged up, and perverse things, but if you haven’t seen too many of those sorts of films already and want a good one: this is it.