American Psycho


Directed by: Mary Harron
Written by:Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner
Starring: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Reece Witherspoon, Chloe Sevigny
Released: August 10, 2000
Grade: B+

“There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman.  Some kind of abstraction.  But there is no real me.  Only an entity.  Something illusory.  And though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh ribbing yours.  And maybe you can even sense our lives are probably comparable.  I simply am not there.”

Working at his father’s firm on Wall Street, Patrick Bateman’s life revolves around appearances.  He enjoys grooming, exercise, dinners at exclusive restaurants, picking up “hardbodys” at clubs and doing as little work as possible - creating the illusion to all that he is a successful individual.  Patrick Bateman is also a psychopath.

Bret Easton Ellis’s novel is a work of art.  Banned in Queensland for its subject material (which is much worse than that seen on the screen), American Psycho is an intricate novel that has a lot to say about people in the late 1980s.

It is surprising to see the film directed by a woman, particularly as it so acutely illustrates the depravity of men.  Her direction and screenplay are strong but the impact left by the book isn’t fully captured in her adaptation.  At times the film resembles a jumble and for those unfamiliar with the novel, the pieces won’t always fit together.  What became of Luis Carruthers, Courtney Rawlinson, Evelyn Williams?  Special credit has to go to the opening credit sequence that was extremely well designed.

American Psycho has had a colourful past on its path to the big screen.  Christian Bale was touted as the lead until Leonardo came along, following the success of Titanic, and sought the part.  Women’s groups protested claiming DiCaprio’s teen-idol status would encourage younger viewers to idolise his character and DiCaprio subsequently turned down the role leaving Bale to sign on the dotted line.

Christian Bale does a great job in a most difficult role.  I was most surprised by his ability to capture the soul of the character - he’s not really “evil”, he’s just a psychopath.  Some of his wittiest moments come as he discusses the musical talents of Phil Collins and Whitney Houston and how he kept a straight face I will never know.

There’s a lot behind Patrick Bateman and American Psycho that makes entrancing viewing.  It’ll leave you thinking just what it all means and whether such people really do exist.  Trust me, they do.