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The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (R)

Release Date: March 10th, 2006 (Landmark Sunshine Cinemas) by Palm Pictures.
The Cast: Asia Argento, Jimmy Bennett, Dylan Sprouse, John Robinson, Ornella Muti, Peter Fonda, Jeremy Renner, Michael Pitt, Jeremy Sisto, Marilyn Manson, Ben Foster, Kip Pardue, Matt Schulze, Tim Armstrong, Cole Sprouse, Winona Ryder.
Directed by Asia Argento.

BASIC PREMISE: A little boy named Jeremiah learns life the hard way while traveling on the road with his young, low-life mother (Argento) and spending time with foster parents. Based on short stories by J.T. Leroy.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things follows Jeremiah at different stages during his youth. Jimmy Bennett plays him at the age of 7 while Dylan and Cole Sprouse play him at the age of 11. From the beginning of the film, his mother lives a life full of sex and drugs, yet she still brings him along with her through her adventures on the road. Writer/director Asia Argento wisely hooks you into Jeremiah’s life by showing it through his eyes. A few surprising funny cameos feel a bit distracting—one of them is unintentionally funny. Through much of Jeremiah’s experience, not enough happens to hold your interest. The different episodes along the way feel too brief and awkward at times. It would have been more interesting if Jeremiah had more than just his mother as a friend. Also, some scenes feel too exaggerated and redundant. Nonetheless, the three young actors who play Jeremiah give strong enough performances to make him believable as a character. Moreover, it’s interesting to watch how Jeremiah changes because of his experiences and, especially, because of his foster parents. This change could have been more powerful and organic if those scenes were longer; instead, it feels contrived. As a director, Argento shows a masterful visual style which reflects what Jeremiah experiences with his own eyes, i.e. when he takes ecstasy, the visuals get all blurry. If only she could work on her writing skills to trust the audience more with subtleties rather than hit them over the head with the same dark and disturbing scenes over and over.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Much of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things will make you feel depressed from Jeremiah’s tragic upbringing. Granted, not everyone has the advantage to be born into a warm, safe and loving home. Every child needs to grow up with a role model and, clearly, his mother is far from one. She has unconditional love like another mother does, but she doesn’t show it. If she truly loved him, she would change her lifestyle, i.e. by going into rehab, rather than subjecting him to the dangers of living life on edge. The way that religion plays into this story is quite thought-provoking, but far from uplifting.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Meandering, redundant plot.


IN A NUTSHELL: A haunting, disturbing tale from the eyes of child. Some scenes feel pointless and redundant, but Argento proves to be a talented director with a creative visual style.


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