Jeremiah is taken at the age of five from his loving foster parents and turned over to the tender mercies of his white-trash mother, Sarah (Asia Argento, in an absolutely monstrous role). He is dragged down into the abusive nightmare of her life, being raped by her male partners when he is being beaten by them. There is an interlude where he is taken under the care of his fundamentalist grandparents (whicih is a nightmare in itself), but mother reclaims him, ultimately making him up as a gir… and having him turn tricks with her at truck stops.
Cheery stuff, and the backstory is now more high-profile than the tale itself. The novel it is based on is by “JT LeRoy,” and the story went that the novel was thinly disguised autobiography, and LeRoy became quite the celebrity as a waif-like transvestite. After a few years of this (and after the film was shot), it turned out that the LeRoy’s books were actually written by Laura Albert, and LeRoy himself was incarnated by Albert’s partner’s sister (so no wonder the writer seemed so effeminate). I mention all of this because the DVD assumes we all know about the hoax, an approach I found a bit confusing until I did some digging around.
Anyway, as to the movie itself, Asia Argento’s second film as a writer/director (after Scarlet Diva) shows her continuing to develop as a very strong voice. Her films are just as dark and horrific as her father’s; she simply finds her inspiration in a very different area. The movie is brutal and raw. It is an utterly unpleasant viewing experience. But it is also an impressive one.
Raw the film is in its tone and content, raw it also is in its production. So don’t be expecting DTS and crystalline clarity. There is, therefore, some distortion now and then. Even so, the music’s mix is pretty solid, and there is a decently executed, if generally low key, sense of environment. In sum, the sound experience is very much in keeping with the overall tone of the film.
We’re still within the domain of the raw, here, but again, the gritty feel is appropriate. So the colours are rather muddy, the image a bit murky, and there is a certain level of grain. None of this hurts the film: rather, it adds to the unhealthy ambiance and you’ll probably feel the need to shower even after watching just the first few minutes. The film may not look pretty, but that’s because it’s telling an ugly story.
Argento and producer Chris Hanley turn in a good commentary, delving deeply into the hows and whys of the film. The hoax issue is addressed somewhat in interviews given by producer Roberta Hanley in the footage of the New York premiere (the filmmakers were just as bamboozled as everyone else), and in the included booklet, though again, in a way that assumes the viewer/reader is already up to speed. “JT Under Cover” is footage shot by Hanley of LeRoy (and Argento, Marianne Faithful and others) at Cannes, in London, and elsewhere. Much of what is on display is simply people chatting inaudibly at parties, and is very, very boring. The US theatrical trailer is here (plus those for a few other releases), and there are a few weblinks. The menu’s main screen is animated and scored.
Even without the interest of the hoax, this would be a film worth… confronting… I think is the word I want. It’s not easy. But it is utterly committed.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- NYC Premiere Footage
- “JT Under Cover” Footage