American Psycho (2000) (Original NC-17 version.)
spoilers. I suppose, although I may not understand the ending well enough to
The phenomenally successful
investment banker Patrick Bateman is a superficial, bland, soulless
product of a consumption-driven society. Although only 26, he's
already at the top of his field. He wants to eat in the best
restaurants, drink the finest wines, have the best apartment,
present the classiest business card, marry the richest heiress, screw the sexiest supermodels,
and buy the top of the line of every product. He prides himself on
having all the hippest opinions, at least by Wall Street standards.
He wants to appear perfect in every way, from his body to his suits
to his watches to his skin, and to this end he purchases a closet
full of designer clothing, a bathroom full of moisturizers, and
enough exercise equipment to train as a body shaper.
There is only one problem.
Patrick Bateman is insane.
His quest for perfection, which is inherently doomed
to failure, turns him to rage. When he isn't having superficial
conversations with his colleagues, Patrick is killing the homeless.
Not to mention streetwalkers, girlfriends, colleagues ... people who
rouse his ire or, when he lacks specific targets for his internal
wrath, whatever victims he can drum up to calm his blood-lust.
I find American Psycho to be very
brilliant in spots and there are sections that made me laugh out
loud, although I was ashamed of having laughed at a guy
pontificating on the merits of Huey Lewis while committing a brutal
axe murder. In the end, however, I found the film deeply unsatisfying. I suppose
part of this reaction may just be my natural negative reaction to
black comedy in general, but it's not just that. The ending of the
film left me totally confused. I'm not opposed to ambiguity, and in
fact I find it is often a hallmark of the best art, so I don't
really have any problem with the fact that the film never says
whether Patrick Bateman's murders are real or just his fantasies. I
suppose that he imagines them, and that these fantasies are just the
ways he acts out the inner turmoil that he can never expose with his
Yacht Club friends. Thus, when a colleague one-ups him with a more
stylish business card, he maintains absolute composure, but the
jealousy burns so deep inside of him that he just has to have a
kill, or at least a fantasy kill. That ambiguity did not bother me,
because it was simply ambiguity, not confusion. That's the sort of
device that draws us into a story.
What did bother me was the question
of whether there was a Patrick Bateman or not. Why do others so
often call him by different names? In an office building, a security
guard says, "good evening Mr. Smith, don't forget to sign in." When
he confesses his crimes to his lawyer, the lawyer responds by
calling him "Davis." (In the book people address him by many more
names, like "Taylor" and "Donaldson.") Other characters call him
"Bateman," but one of his office rivals calls him by another name,
confusing him with another fungible social climber. So what is the
deal? Am I supposed to consider the fact that Bateman not only
didn't commit any real murders, but doesn't even exist? That he is
merely a convenient device for two hours of rambling? I just don't
know. I guess I should be able to figure it all out from his opening
monologue in which he tells the audience "I'm simply not there," but
I'm still not too sure what it all is supposed to mean. We do see
him impersonate a colleague at one point, so perhaps part of
Bateman's insanity is that he constantly imagines himself switching
places with his colleagues. I just don't know.
I do know that devices and symbols
only function well if they supplement the surface story, not if they
supplant it, and in this case the surface story has a very confusing
and unsatisfying ending.
Getting this story from a book to a
film involved a complex process. Mary Herron, the eventual director,
was also the original director, but she left the project when she
was forced to take Leo DiCaprio as the star. Oliver Stone then took over
the project, It's interesting to speculate what Stone and DiCaprio
might have done with this material, but they both lost interest,
Herron came back in, and signed the star she wanted, Christian Bale.
That probably worked out well, at least for the casting, because
Bale has the correct physical development to play the body-obsessed
character, a role which involves plenty of nudity and near nudity.
DiCaprio may have done just fine with the dialogue, but he would
definitely have needed to add about fifty pounds of muscle to look
right in the role. There seems to be no need for any artistic
regrets because Bale seemed to nail the character, and Herron did a
remarkable job in two ways: (1) she and her co-author managed to
siphon the worthwhile elements from the rambling book and assemble
them into a coherent narrative; (2) she overcame the difficult
challenge of picturing the lives of trendy Manhattan high rollers
without having the big bucks to photograph their haunts.
The investors have no need for
regrets either. Oliver Stone may have added lots of bells and
whistles, but I don't expect he would have done it for seven million
dollars, which is what Herron spent. Indeed, I think the film has
turned a profit, which it may not have done as a lavish $50 million
It was a controversial film, but it
is neither as bad nor as good as people have portrayed.
Is it a
disgusting sex-and-gore fest? No. It isn't really that explicit, and all
the sensationalism has a point. Watch the original NC-17 director's
cut on the DVD, and you'll see that it is still more suggestive than
Is it a masterpiece of the first
order? No, I don't think so. It soars close to that altitude, but
can't sustain it, and feels empty at the end.
It is, however, a consistently
interesting and provocative movie, not your characteristic run of
the Hollywood mill.
Samantha Mathis (from the deleted scenes)
'Caps and comments by Striplight:
Here is the final set of 'caps for Serie Galante.
Firstly we have Sonia Paul in "Killer". She comes home with a new pet – a goldfish. This upsets her cat, who gets jealous, plots revenge (this is the premise, cat could just be hungry of course). To keep the fish safe Sonia puts it in the bath, then climbs in herself. Trouble is, the second her back is turned, cat pulls the plug.. bye, bye fishy. I didn’t say it was a romance.
Following along is Marijke de Jong in "Mirage". She goes for a dip in the municipal pool, and, though unbeknownst to her, her bathing costume becomes invisible. It's a bit far fetched, this one, if you ask me.
Marijke de Jong
Much more realistic is Barbera Thamera in "Don't Touch". She's papering a wall, gets covered in paste, has to cut herself out of her clothes. This happens all the time.
Then we have Madeleen Lame in "Un Ange Passe". She's a baker who has a bit of a fling with the lad who stokes her oven. 'Nuff said.
Finally we’ve got Ute Apfelstedt & Maria Megarejo in "Mirrors". Tough one to cap, as we have one girl spying on the other through some bushes, or from behind a mirror. Don't know which actress is which. And this is a bit like the story. The maid is trying on clothes watched by the other lady outside. She then comes in and puts on the maid's clothes, whilst being spied on. So who's really the maid? Then they rip the clothes off each other. Still makes more sense than any porn film you’ve ever seen.
Ute Apfelstedt & Maria Megarejo
And finally, finally, I’ve attached a collection of my favourite scenes from this series in a larger format.
Marijke de Jong
in "Fly Lady Fly"
in "My Fair Dolly"