Wednesday, May 24, 2006


How Dark the Con of JT LeRoy

The most fascinating thing for me regarding the ongoing ticket sales phenomenon of director Ron Howard’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is how all the attention, both negative and otherwise, continues to boost the film. It doesn’t matter how ludicrous the conspiracies in Dan Brown’s bestselling thriller may be, or the devout belief held by armies of readers in the truths of his story, the moviegoers keep marching to cinemas.
All publicity is good ‘Da Vinci Code’ publicity. Yet, what works well for a Hollywood blockbuster doesn’t always translate for an independent film.
My favorite art movie mess playing select independent cinemas is actress/filmmaker Asia Argento’s adaptation of JT LeRoy’s ‘The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.’ The shock value of drugs, alcohol and prostitution runs through the journey of Sarah (Argento) and her abused son Jeremiah (Jimmy Bennett), a story supposedly based on LeRoy’s own troubled life.
I remember watching Argento introduce the film at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival with LeRoy standing alongside her, clad in his trademark dark glasses and thick mop of long blonde hair.
But none of it, not the sordid life or the premise of a West Virginia truck stop hooker turned author sensation is true. LeRoy is the creation of Laura Albert and Geoffery Knoop, two people who claimed to have met and helped LeRoy. The man I watched onstage was really Savannah Knopp, the half sister of Geoffrey Knoop.
LeRoy is fiction, a hoax even more complete than James Frey’s embellishments for ‘A Million Little Pieces’, and yet, this crazed movie born from lies remains a fringe pleasure. The bad publicity occurred too early, or perhaps, the film and LeRoy are too small for any controversy to really matter.
Gus Van Sant once planned to direct an adaptation of LeRoy’s debut novel Sarah. He still should do it; but make the hoax part of the story. A farce this entertaining should not be wasted. Consider Argento’s wild ride of a movie a taste of things to come.

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things premiered at the 2004 Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals and recently opened in New York City and Los Angeles. Palm Pictures is slowly releasing it in select theaters across America.

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