Still trying to wrap my head around Asia Argento’s alleged statutory rape of Jimmy Bennett in 2013, and Anthony Bourdain’s alleged participation in the cover-up earlier this year, I just watched the movie that spawned the whole mess. In 2004, Argento cast Bennett in The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things when he was 7 years old. It’s available for free on Amazon Prime.
Bennett plays young Jeremiah, and Argento plays Sarah, his drug-addicted prostitute mother. Argento also received script credit and directed the film, set in West Virginia.
How Argento got the rights to this “JT Leroy” story by sleeping with the woman who masqueraded as Leroy, and then cheated on Leroy to “his” face by sleeping with a man is a story in itself. Basically, it’s another example of Argento’s now well-recognized schtick of using people for her own ends before shitting all over them.
Back to the movie. Here’s the trailer (Bennett is the youngest boy)…
In badly fitting blonde wigs, Argento’s hit-or-miss Southern accent is the extent of her acting. The rest is pretty much her typical behavior as she’s posted it on Instagram for years.
In a nutshell, the story celebrates child abuse in myriad forms. Sarah makes Jeremiah her captive audience to watch her smoke, drink, do drugs, and have sex with strangers whenever he isn’t being tortured.
The photography includes lots of shots of Argento on all fours poking her barely-clad ass at the camera as if she considers it her best feature.
Jimmy Bennett looks scared, sad and finally numb throughout his portion of the film. Fortunately, his gig is done and he’s replaced by two older twins before a man rapes the Jeremiah character.
The rape scene may be the film’s most tasteful bit, with Argento stepping in to play Jeremiah’s fantasy that he’s Sarah. What, you didn’t think for a moment Argento would have a sex scene in her movie without her, did you?
Afterward, the only indication of “how it went” is Jeremiah trying to wash blood from stained frilly panties.
In one climactic scene, Sarah makes this speech to Jeremiah. It’s easy to imagine Asia spitting these words at Tony during one of their arguments…
“You think I need you? You’ve done nothing but ruin everything. Always. I sacrificed so much for you, you shitty bastard. I could have been something. I had to give it all up for you. By myself I’ve always landed on my feet. Never forget that.”
Making the film gave Argento an opportunity, in the name of art, to experiment with destroying a child. Four years later, in 2008, she gave birth to her son, Nicola. In 2013, before Nicola was 5, Argento allegedly had sex with Jimmy, the boy she knew best when he was only 7.
We’re left with 97 minutes of film showing how coarse, cruel and slutty Argento can be. It boggles the mind to think Anthony Bourdain ever watched it and found it impressive work.
Jimmy Bennett’s upbringing must have been nightmarish for his parents to allow his participation in this travesty, and then to allow him to keep in touch with the woman responsible.
BONUSES: Here’s a 2006 review still available online by Jeremy C. Fox at Pajiba that discusses the Leroy book and gives the movie and Argento much more credit than I do, but he’s ultimately disappointed.
Snippets of dozens of professional reviews are at Rotten Tomatoes, but I found most full versions no longer accessible.
Oops! Just found another one from 2006 by Ty Burr at The Boston Globe. Enjoy — or puke!