US, 2000, 100 minutes, Colour.
Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Matthis, Matt Ross, Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe, Cara Seymour, Guinevere Turner.
Directed by Mary Harron.
Patrick Bateman, the elegantly-styled, yuppy 80s American Psycho. Mary Herron's 100 minute movie version of Brett Easton Ellis’ controversial novel is very well done indeed, going to the core of the novel, it seems, and taking key episodes to symbolise the journey into the mind of the judgmental, smooth-veneered serial killer. And Christian Bale gives a persuasive performance as Patrick Bateman.
Patrick Bateman assures us that he has no personality within. He has no emotions or motives - except disgust and greed. His face is a mask (although he also wears a number of masks and make-up). He is the self-creation of marketing, magazines and fashion for the Wall Street dealers - and he might have turned into Gordon Gecko.
But the world that governs his self-creation is a commercial 'out there' - at clubs and the best (the 'in') restaurants. He knows the best to eat and drink (and sniff). He can catalogue his toiletries. His wardrobe is perfect. He can conform to the expectations of bosses and order his life and work. He does not personalise his life or relationships - his cavalier affair with a drug-addicted socialite (Samantha Mathis) and dealing with his brittle fiancee (Reese Witherspoon showing us what her character in Election might be like a few years on). He does personalise his murdering his victims: a homeless man in the street, prostitutes, business rivals, but this is darkest shadow.
People like the rival he murders, the lawyer he confesses to all think he is someone else. Willem Dafoe as the detective never gives a moment's suspicion to him. Patrick Bateman has so created his persona in the expected image of society, high society, that, even when he desperately confesses, they do not believe him, not even take him seriously. The mask has become the completely acceptable person.
Well, perhaps we all knew that the Wall Street yuppies who spent time enviously comparing the texture, colour and fonts of their business cards, were, under the brand clothes, lotions and cosmetics, really narcissistic, murdering psychopaths!
But this film tries to image something of the desire for happiness. Patrick Bateman shows the temptation of the other, broad path, to happiness which is to lose self completely, take on another's life (and take away another's life) to the acclaim of society with its superficial expectations.
1. Brett Easton Ellis, his reputation as an author? Controversy? His perceptions on American society?
2. A film from the 1990s, the title, now taken for granted, a phrase that people are used to”?
3. The director and actress, Guinevere Turner, adapting the novel, condensing it, 100 minutes? The essence of the novel?
4. The 1980s setting, the Reagan era, reflections on that era, the greed is good era, Gordon Gecko era? The musical score, the range of songs? The atmosphere? The importance of fashion, men’s fashion, lotions and body care, hairstyles, fine food and cuisine, restaurants and reservations, apartments and luxury furniture, the discussion of business cards and colours and textures?
5. American yuppy men, women in the background, self-image, jobs, pride and competitiveness? Wall Street and finance? The core of American business – and in the light of the global financial collapse of 20 years later?
6. The young men at work, friendship, relaxations, rivalry? Their identity from their work?
7. Patrick Bateman as an icon after this novel and film? His voice-over, symbol of American men, his description of himself, nothing inside, his exterior being a mask, and the image of the mask on his face and peeling it off? Play on names and assuming different identities? His not having any family? His relationship with Evelyn, the expected marriage, his not being committed? His relationship with Courtney? His preoccupation with sexuality, porn on his television, his monologues? As perceived by others, by women, by men?
8. The rivalries, the encounter with Paul Allan, comparisons, talk, inviting him to the meal, going to the apartment, the talk, the axe, Patrick killing Paul Allen? later ringing his lawyer, explaining the situation, his lawyer thinking it was someone else, having meals with Paul Allen in London? Patrick’s real identity, and unreal identity?
9. The investigator, friendly, Patrick charming him, the discussions at the office, going to the meal, the issue of Paul Allen and his disappearance, the investigator giving him the alibi? Not believing the Patrick could be guilty?
10. Jean, subservience to Patrick, in love with him, helping, the bookings, the invitation to his apartment, his comments on her clothes, wearing a skirt, changing for the evening meal, the choice of restaurant, staying in the apartment, the phone call, his inviting her to leave, the later seeing his book and the doodles and grieving at whatever was wrong with Patrick?
11. Evelyn, her chatter, a hollow person, society, brash? The break?
12. Courtney, drugs, her relationship, the affair?
13. Brice, his best friend, talk, the other friends at the club, Luis and his misunderstanding Patrick and thinking it was a provocative sexual come-on?
14. The prostitutes, Patrick and his cruising, picking up the prostitute, her previous experience in a hospital, giving her cash? Elizabeth at home, provocative conversation? The threesome? The killing?
15. The episode with the blood-stained sheets at the laundry and his antagonism towards the Asian couple and their service?
16. Seeing Patrick as a killer, psycho, his explanation of the need to kill, the apartment and the range of dead bodies? The prostitute and her opening the doors, running away, running down the stairwell, Patrick with the saw, his throwing it down the stairwell? In the street, shooting, the woman standing by, the concierge and the people at the office building?
17. And yet his obsessive behaviour, wanting to be clean, neat, not wanting to be touched?
18. His ringing the lawyer, the talk, meeting the lawyer at the club, the lawyer not believing him? Getting the others talking about Paul Allen?
19. Brett Easton Ellis and his ideas a bout Patrick Bateman, as a symbol of the American male, US surface, style, yet inner emptiness, rage, misogynistic attitudes, competitive in business? The television interview with President Reagan and Brice commenting on his inner emptiness?
20. The final close-up on Patrick’s eyes and what the audience was left with and would take away?