Directed by: Mary Harron
Written by: Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner
Starring: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross
The male ego holds many characteristics, but strength is certainly not one of them. When it can easily be shattered it appears that those with marginalized identities feel the wrath that comes with it. Whether one believes everything to be an illusion or an indictment on society, American Psycho certainly succeeds in its satirical look at the world of ultimate superficiality.
Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) knows his beautification routine down to the letter. He knows what he enjoys: expensive clothes, furniture, and even business cards. Bateman attempts to present that he lives the perfect life, but his true character soon gets revealed, which includes the murder of several innocent people in his quest to actually feel something in the end.
Films like American Psycho do such a great job of satirizing the lifestyle of someone like Bateman that it falls into the trap of being misunderstood. In that respect, it joins a film like Fight Club where the obvious satirization may not make sense to those unwilling to comprehend what they see on screen. By knowing who directed it and the true essence of the tale, the film expertly breaks down what it looks like to be a psychopath and just how someone like Bateman can blend into society even with his heinous actions.
Mary Harron co-wrote and directed the film and brilliantly pieced together what existed in the book and brought it to the screen. A story like this needed something special and Harron provided that with the incredible dynamism of her directing style. Even with all of the horrifying actions of Bateman, she uses the camera as an ally in all of his terrible deeds. With all of his actions, the camera stays behind or beside Bateman almost like we’re accomplices in this entire mess. Harron presents what makes this man attractive to people and how he could get away with everything he does.
American Psycho provides Christian Bale with the opportunity to shine and he definitely went for it. From getting physically fit for the role to exhibiting the terrifying behaviour that would make Bateman so appealing and alarming all at once. Each monologue that Bale delivers in the role has the same steely and scholarly approach. It comes together in such a monotonous way because the character demands that type of reaction. It makes it all the more unsettling. The topics he decides to speak on should conjure some emotion and passion, but it represents a mask to Bateman. Something he needs to enjoy in order to continually display the opulence that would give him respect amongst his peers. Bale does such a tremendous job and it helped his ascent into the incredible work he would continue to do in the new century.
Everything happening in the story can be analyzed because it’s filled with as many details as Bateman’s skincare routine. But one of the more frightening aspects of Bateman’s killing comes from who decides to kill and why. For the most part, the individuals he kills in the film belong in identity groups that he does not respect. Whether it be the homeless man on the street, the prostitutes, and even attempting to murder his secretary. It displays his way of thinking and who he finds disposable in the world. He kills those folks when he gets frustrated by those he sees are on his level. It begins with being shown up in the presentation of business cards, where he kills the homeless man and his dog. It then starts to conclude with trying to feed a cat to an ATM and the murder spree that results from it. Bateman takes out his rage on the most marginalized around him and this selection of victims certainly has its purpose in the story.
The way one sees the ending of the film will dictate ultimately how they feel about it overall. Depending on who you talk to it can be seen as a definite conclusion or something left to interpretation. I happen to love the ambiguity that exists with it because it leaves us just as confused as Bateman seems to be by what transpires. It really puts the icing on the devilish cake that Harron puts together for the audience. I won’t go into my ideas of how it all comes together in order to avoid spoilers, but it certainly lands with a cherry on top.
Patrick Batemen has been turned into a meme but still stands out as a defining character in cinema. Whether it be his monologues or dance sequences as he prepares for his next kill, American Psycho tells a thrilling story about the weakness of the male ego and how everyone else loses in the end when someone with all of the privileges in the world decides to blow off some steam.