movie: American Psycho (2000)

Lots of movies around here, hm? I mean, relatively speaking. I think I will add a movie section to this year’s best-of list!

american psycho

Following Psycho, I was drawn to this later work which has only tangential relation to that Hitchcock classic. American Psycho was released in 2000 and set in the late 1980’s. Christian Bale is Patrick Bateman, a wealthy young man ostensibly employed by his father’s mergers-and-acquisitions firm on Wall Street (he doesn’t really work). He’s creepy, just like all his peers: deeply materialistic and concerned with fitting into a type, womanizing, narcissistic, spoiled; he snorts coke in the bathrooms of nightclubs and exclusive restaurants and swaps fiances with his friends. The level of detail that goes into some of the markers of this type is extraordinary, and a big part of what establishes this movie’s satirical dark humor. This was one of my favorite features, this oddly close attention. For example, Patrick compares business cards with his “friends” (colleagues he actually strongly dislikes): they all look alike, in colors like eggshell, white, and off white (Patrick’s is a color called “bone,” naturally), and yet they see distinctions in what is clearly a heated competition. Patrick uses “I have to return some video tapes” as an all-purpose excuse. Late in the movie, in yet another scene obsessing over dinner reservations, one of his “friends” says, “I’m not really hungry, I just need to have reservations somewhere.” This stuff cracked me up completely.

The first, oh, maybe close to the first half of the movie is caught up in slow-paced scenes like this that specialize in the absurd by focusing on minutia. The opening scene focuses on Patrick’s beauty regimen: quite elaborate. During these scenes, we hear a lot of Patrick’s interior monologue, intimate, low-spoken. The effect throughout this early section of the film is arty and frankly weird; I think Husband was checked out. And then the killing begins. Patrick Bateman is the movie’s titular psycho, and there is much blood (although happily no graphic gore in terms of body parts or brains, just… blood). It’s jarring, the transition from business cards and moisturizers to wild laughter and blood spatter. And of course jarring is the point.

The movie has a big reveal at the very end that leaves the question of Patrick’s crimes, and his level of psychosis, perfectly ambiguous. I will leave this spoiler-free but say that Husband and I were left with only conjectures, and no clear interpretation. This could be fascinating, or maddening, depending on your personality. I poked around the internet and found that no one else is really sure, either (link contains piles of spoilers). I am a little unsatisfied by this lack of closure, but it will also keep me thinking about this movie for some time, so that is probably a victory for its makers – who, however, according to the above link, wished they’d left things less ambiguous. Sort that one out.

A thoroughly strange and memorable film, and I’m glad I spent my time watching it, although some of my other feelings are less clear to me.

Rating: 7 business cards.

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