director: Mary Harron
starring: Christian Bale, Chloe Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon
The controversial book focusing on a materialistic, self-obsessed serial killer was made into an almost-equally controversial movie, to less than stellar results. Saddled with a screenplay that doesn’t make much sense in terms of plot (though maybe that’s intentional in a story about insanity), American Psycho has some message to tell the populace about avarice and vanity, but it may have an even more important message to tell us about the impact of 80’s music stars. Then again, maybe not.
Christian Bale, in his “breakout” role as New York City stockbroker Patrick Bateman, maintains a smug, condescending manner embodying the very essence of arrogance–whether issuing 10-minute monologues on Huey Lewis or outlining his daily routine of applying a series of facial scrubs and lotions. It’s that same arrogance that drives him to hit a colleague in the face with an ax and commit all sorts of murderous chaos throughout Manhattan. The monologues, though, are the highlight of an otherwise incoherent script.
I live in the American Gardens building on West 81st street. My name is Patrick Bateman. I’m 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself, and a balanced diet and a rigorous exercise routine. In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I’ll put on an ice pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now. After I remove the ice pack, I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower, I use a water activated gel cleanser. Then a honey almond body scrub. And on the face, an exfoliating gel scrub. Then apply an herb mint facial mask, which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an aftershave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion. 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 gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our life styles are probably comparable, I simply am not there.
The plot, of what little there is, centers on Bateman killin’ people, that aforementioned colleague in particular, and his descent into (deeper) madness prompted by a police investigator’s questioning of Bateman about the disappearance of said colleague. Unfortunately, there’s never any real pay-off to that or any of the other minor subplots, but in the end, that may be the point entirely. The power-hungry culture Bateman finds himself a part of is so ensconced in wealth and privilege that its sole focus is to keep that status at the expense of almost everything else, even when it comes to ignoring the glaring truth that you work and socialize with a homicidal maniac. As long as they’re in the black and have eighty-six designer suits in the closet, all’s fair as long as you fit in with the jet set of New York City’s high society.