American Psycho (2000)
Director: Mary Harron
Starring: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe, Cara Seymour, Guinevere Turner, Stephen Bogaert
Most of Bret Easton Ellis’ characters exist in no more than one dimension, so Bateman’s confession shouldn’t be surprising. In this heartwarming tale of a 27-year-old Wall Street mergers-and-acquisitions VP of something-or-the-other who slashes the crap out of bums, hookers and anyone at the firm who outshines him, Bateman does his best to be no deeper than his business card, the aesthetics of which no one should attempt to outshine unless they want to end up decomposing in a bathtub in Hell’s Kitchen.
Bateman obviously is putting up a facade: the question left by this movie is, which of his activities are the more false front? As an M&A VP, he can get into just about any restaurant (ok, maybe not Dorsia, so we never learn whether or not the place has a restroom conducive to cocaine use), but everyone, from his attorney to his coworkers, mistakes him for someone else; once or twice he attempts vaguely to exploit this fact to obtain information about a competitors’ account, but mostly it serves to portray him and his yuppie cohort as conformist, cloned and lacking in personality. At one point Bateman launches into an oratory about everyone’s Armani suits, Oliver Peoples glasses and visits to the same barber. They sleep with each other’s significant others, and compare tanning regimens and business cards. But as a killer — stabbing bums in the gut, shooting police cars until they explode, attempting to feed a stray cat to an ATM (c’mon, the ATM was asking for it), and making numerous murderous confessions which are completely ignored — he also comes off as more ridiculous than sublime, leading you to wonder if it’s all in his head. At the end of the movie, it really doesn’t matter, as Patrick Bateman is still unrecognizable.
The ethos in the book is far darker, and in it Bateman comes off far less in search of identity and far more pathological. But by watering down his personality and lifestyle in the movie, director Mary Harron has created a film that serves as a critique of the yuppie lifestyle as a nameless, faceless, shallow and delusional one, where your suit manufacturer, apartment size and location, and quality of business card are all you have to go on. Take out the murders and you’re left with an guy who works out, moisturizes his face, dines out, does some coke, has some drinks, and maybe listens to the occasional Huey Lewis record. If that’s all we’re supposed to believe the 80s were about, maybe that makes this the quintessential 80′s-satire flick.
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