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American Psycho (2000)

Directed by Mary Harron Novel By Bret Easton Ellis Screenplay by Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner

    Before I begin I just wanted to state that while I am about to chat on the culture and whatnot of the eighties, the truth of the matter is that I didn’t live or rather, did not grow up within that time period. So in no way could I ever truly feel as though I would know what I’m discussing. I could read up all I like and throw some nice twenty-dollar words at you to but never feel as though I could convey this specific time period better than those who actually lived and experienced it. Though, the consensus seems that  it was a time of excess, surely sticking out as a time of blind decadence.

  It seemed a time when people were getting money at a younger age and more of it, faster. Wall Street and the rest of the “yuppies” in New York had created their perfect world. Not only the masters of their own identity and perfect physiques but with an indispensable amount of money and constant competition of who could appear the most perfect. Or such is the world that Bret Easton Ellis created for his 1991 novel American Psycho at least. While it may revolve around Patrick Bateman, he’s simply a forefront for the image that Ellis was trying to capture. The novel caught a vast amount of criticism once released when it seemed that not too many people were able to understand Ellis’ vision as intended. What was more, others began speaking out on the books excessive brutality towards women. Unable to describe (if only seeing the film) though certainly an abundantly distinct difference between the two, would be saying the least.

The society in American Psycho runs off of vapid and erratic people who don’t matter; not even to one another. The mere fact that they associate with one another is that their social status depends on it. Though not pertaining to just that particular time period but rather, transferable through the years. The story was naturally meant to shock in some aspect; a constant variation between the different facets of Bateman’s mind is how the book is formed; varying between great moments of horror soon met with great moments of humor. His attention to detail is impressive but Bateman himself is interchangeable with the people he associates with which is why they never seem to remember each other’s name or why he’s eventually able to get away with everything in the end. There’s this great turn in the novel/movie in which his killings reach an extreme that in a way confuses him because he can no longer tell if what he’s seeing is actually going on. He formally becomes entrapped within the world he’s helped create, never letting up. There are as well quite a bit of killings that occur in the book we don’t see on film though are briefly mentioned in his confession to his lawyer, the only “real” moment of clarity. In the book Bateman has few, yet very aware and unraveling moments of reality in which are honest and can almost make you feel sympathy for him.

     This was the geography around which my reality revolved: it did not occur to me, ever, that people were good or that a man was capable of change or that the world could be a better place through one’s taking pleasure in a feeling or a look or a gesture, of receiving another person’s love or kindness. Nothing was affirmative, the term “generosity of spirit” applied to nothing, was a cliché, was some kind of bad joke. Sex is mathematics. Individuality no longer an issue. What does intelligence signify? Define reason. Desire-meaningless. Intellect is not a cure. Justice is dead. Fear, recrimination, innocence, sympathy, guilt, waste, failure, grief, were things, emotions, that no one really felt anymore. Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in…this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged…

Ellis’s affinitive knack for description is something that can only be experienced through reading his material, no question. The movie includes a good amount of the material and of course, stays true to what I believe Bret would have wanted. However, to capture the books unapologetic accounts would be something perhaps only he himself could write for the screen. If you can believe it, Johnny Depp was the first person ever attached to the role of Bateman. However time went by and he became attached to a different film. Then Mary Harron was scheduled to Direct with Christian Bale having been cast next. At the time Titanic had just been released and the studio suggested Leonardo DiCaprio for the role, under the assumption that he wouldn’t want the project. Though it seemed Leo was quite excited for the project and their plan was to pay him 20 million dollars on a 6 million dollar movie. Bale was dropped and Harron didn’t want to do the film without him, leaving as well. Oliver Stone was to take over but Leo was eventually talked out of the film due to his fan base and told that a film like American Psycho could damage his recent image. Bringing back Harron and Bale and personally, I’m not sure anyone else could be as right as they were, emphasis on Bale.

   Finally getting to just the movie, the intro was a beautiful introduction. What appears to be droplets of blood falling are actually a raspberry sauce design on a plate as the opening is set in a restaurant where we first meet Bateman and his “gang.” The film opens and closes with them at a restaurant, meant to show the importance of such in their world. Everyone was always asking where and what time the reservations were, in the novel there’s a hilarious chapter of Bateman discussing where they were going to go and it takes them the entire night. Their constantly calling each other to see where they going, canceling and remaking reservations, asking which girls to invite; getting the perfect reservation is a highly respected quality to these people. Also, right away they begin misplacing their colleagues and associates around the location which is an ongoing thing throughout this world. Everyone has the same haircut, attractive figure and same platinum American Express card; what made any of them stand out? Nothing, to the men at least. The movie did have a tendency to rearrange some of the scenes in the book, to occur in different sequences, but it surprisingly didn’t take away since I consider the two very separate depictions of the same topic.

Bateman’s “crew” included Timothy Bryce (Price in novel)/(Justin Theroux), Craig McDermott (Josh Lucas), David Van Patten (Bill Sage) and Luis Carruthers (Matt Ross);(though he wasn’t with them in the opening scene). The first dinner party actually occurred at Evelyn’s (Reese Witherspoon) in the book, whose dating Patrick but having an affair with Timothy. Which Patrick doesn’t seem to mind as he is having an affair with Courtney (Samantha Mathis) whose engaged to Luis. Luis, who is actually gay and has a huge crush on Bateman later reveals sch and not taken as far in the film; the novel continually brought him back to annoy him at various times. Though Patrick only suspects Evelyn in the film and as well doesn’t care, spending a vast amount of time with other woman as well.

I believe there were 2 murders in the novel before the first shown on-screen. Greatly keeping in mind that the murder sequences in here and really nothing to that described in the book. But I could never see them being expressed without it considered a snuff film so, the book will suffice for me. When he murders Paul Allen (Jared Leto) he does this hilarious dance which was all Bale’s doing and the “fun” that he put into the role was what made its outcome so outstanding. He has certainly proved that it can get better with time as he has executed a string of roles with great professionalism, regardless of genre. His body, which is seen quite often throughout the film was molded into perfection, I kid you not. Which coincides with his commitment to his roles. Four years later he got down to 110 pounds losing 61 pounds for his role in The Machinist. He then turned around and regained the weight for Batman Begins. Did I mention he only ate a can of tuna and an apple a day? Dannnng. In the novel, there were dedicated chapters to certain musicians that would be his review of their career in great detail in an orchestrated manner. Because they were so random throughout, the film worked the reviews into his killings and when he would have sex with the prostitutes bought. Which was really the only time people would listen to him and it was because they were being paid to do so. He’s able to get away with stating at times an absurd statement from within the inner workings of his mind because no one really pays attention. He drags a body out (in a bag of course) of his apartment and a trail of blood is seen following but the security guard doesn’t even glance up. He would also often tell people he was outright insane and his thoughts but nothing seemed to faze anyone.

Willem Dafoe plays Detective Kimball and was a great counter to Bale; originally intended for a male the same age as Patrick. He played the inquisitive older counter making it better for the film version. He gives Bateman the benefit of the doubt but does so in a manner of making him turn into cold sweats when speaking on the matter of Paul Allen. Constantly chatting with him throughout, he never really does anything about his suspicion he held for them, if even that. The turning point in the film being when he reaches the ATM and it tells him to feed a stray cat to the machine. He goes on a killing spree that ends in a rather explosive chase scene with Bateman reaching his office. Where he called his lawyer and confesses of all that’s gone on. Yet even with that, he is unable to get through to anybody as his lawyer mistakes him for Davis the next day during lunch with the guys. Confronting him and asking why it wouldn’t even be possible (as the lawyer claimed) that he had just had seen Paul Allen twice in London; 10 days ago. The query being whether Patrick had actually engaged in these vicious acts or if his personality was so split that it had created this drawn out imagery and brought realness to his “actions” with everyday occurrences going on around him. Another main reason the lawyer stated was that Bateman was “such a dork,” and would never be able to pull off that type of behavior. Which is what those around Patrick seemed to say about him; he was never actually seen as equivalent to those he hung around.

Other than what I’ve already gone through (didn’t expect it to be so much!) I’d say the only thing left would be the little things otherwise not finding room for earlier. In the murder sequence when he chases Christie with a chain saw, we catch the slightest side of his cannibalistic nature. In the novel he would typically leave displayed body parts around his apartment for weeks, eat their brains and other body parts, much worse than ever leading on. They never mention Patrick’s brother though in the book they have dinner at Dorsia (the restaurant he spends the entire time trying to get into). He does use his brothers catchphrase of “Rockin and a-rollin!” and though it is not the eventual outcome in the film, Patrick does end up with secretary Jean (Chloë Sevigny) in the novel. The book had this great moment I liked when his, other half we’ll say, refers to Bateman while having dinner with Jean. Asking what she could possibly do to please Patrick he stresses that everything was fine. “Something snaps. ‘You shouldn’t fawn over him…’ I pause before correcting myself. ‘I mean…me. Okay?” I wish a moment as such could have been worked into the movie. His end speech in the film is actual one that is thought while with Jean (about 30 pages before the end in the book). The combination of that with the end scene added to a striking conclusion with the final sentence of, “This confession has meant nothing,” as it fades to black. If you look behind him right before, you can see the sign on the door which he last lays his eyes on in the novel showing This is not an exit.