American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Mary Harron with Bret Easton Ellis based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis.
(number 435)

Yay a woman director!

This would have been a great one to watch right after Glengarry Glen Ross I think, lots of 80s decadence and men talking about how rich and cool and successful they are, but obviously with a distinct twist.

Actually the really striking thing for me was how much Patrick Bateman represents the ideal rich American bachelor more recently epitomised by Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey. His home apartment and his office are almost identical to how Christian’s are described, and Patrick has the same self assured arrogance and conviction that he’s right at all times is also identical to how Christian acts. So… that’s pretty terrifying right there.

There’s a neat bit in a board meeting where Jared Leto is introduced, he confuses Patrick for Marcus because they have the same glasses, the same suit and the same barber. Then you realise that Jared Leto’s character is also wearing the same tortoiseshell, rounded frame glasses and possibly another guy is too. Then it becomes an obsessive business card competition over who’s is the most tasteful, which off white colour is best etc? All of this taps into the deep running need to be the best at belonging that Patrick suffers from.

“I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”

The first killing is both confusing and obvious, Patrick talks to a homeless man, at first seeming to offer salvation, charity but then he switches to just hating this man for not conforming to the capitalist dream – why don’t you have a job, if you’re hungry?

The second killing is of Jared Leto’s character Paul Allen is a lot more iconic. He puts on Huey Lewis – it’s hip to be square, talking about the artistry of the song and laughing when Paul asks about the raincoat he’s put on, he dances before brutally murdering him with an axe. It’s a scene which I felt like I’ve seen even though I’ve never seen this movie before. It’s a sequence which seems to be the direct parent of shows like Dexter and Hannibal.

There’s something really interesting in how much people are fascinated with these stylish, white men who love to kill for no apparent reason. Is it tapping into the subconscious knowledge that white rich men actually control the world/society and we kind of have to love them for that because we don’t have any other choice? Or is it just a fascination with horror and the idea that a man who seems to put together could just be a heartless broken creature inside? I don’t have the answers but I think they’re questions which need to be asked.

I really love the eighties hits in this movie – great soundtrack and one that I would like to track down.

The character, homosexual Luis is an interesting revelation, he had gone in to murder Luis over his business cards but Luis misreads the situation, gives him kisses and reveals his love for him, his secret desire that he’s had for years. Patrick is disarmed, unable to continue with his plan. He can’t even respond except to say ‘I have to return some videotapes’ when Luis asks where he’s going. I suppose it’s one of those moments which could have changed the course of the character’s path – if he had given in and been with Luis, accepted some actual love… maybe he wouldn’t have had to keep killing? But then maybe not. Maybe it was just a weird moment.

The movie slowly degenerates from him being a bit unhinged to him naked and bloody, chasing a terrified prostitute through the halls of his apartment building.

Does it make me love the people? No, there’s no one to love in this movie. Patrick is written and played as a totally disconnected psychopath. I admire the movie, and the characters in it but I don’t love them or relate to them at all.

Bechdel test: I dunno, Elizabeth talks to ‘Christie’ about where did they meet, etc but Christie doesn’t really respond to her, she just sits there and looks grumpy as hell. Does this count? Nah, it’s not a conversation.

Best line:
Patrick Bateman: Come on, Bryce. There are a lot more important problems than Sri Lanka to worry about.
Timothy Bryce: Like what?
Patrick Bateman: Well, we have to end apartheid for one. And slow down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism and world hunger. We have to provide food and shelter for the homeless, and oppose racial discrimination and promote civil rights, while also promoting equal rights for women. We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values. Most importantly, we have to promote general social concern and less materialism in young people.

State of Mind: It wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be, it wasn’t pleasant but it wasn’t particularly scary. I suspect the shocking nature of this film has been diluted by the media that has come after it, Saw, Antichrist and all the tv shows about sexy serial killers. It’s beautifully made and plastic, which I’m sure was the intention of the director. I think the movie was built up as more disturbing than I found it, but I am not at all tempted to read the book.

Watched movie count


2 thoughts on “American Psycho (2000)

  1. It’s been a while since I saw this (and I haven’t read the book), however I remember feeling that in the end it was somewhat ambiguous as to whether the murders were real or whether it was all just Bateman’s fantasy. Did you get that?

    • it’s definitely ambiguous, perhaps because of that I didn’t feel like I could speak to it too much as I became unsure of what had really happened but decided that it didn’t matter. The point of the movie isn’t whether it’s all ‘true’ to Patrick or not, because the point of the movie is the level of his obsession and his disconnection from humanity. That remains whether all, some or none of the murders are real. This is a pretty great article on the ending (spoilers obviously)

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