April 25, 2000

“I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of ‘My Fair Lady.’ And it was the only movie I’ve seen that made me want to go out and buy new luggage.” — John Waters on the film “American Psycho.”

Hmmmm…I never knew that a naked man, covered in blood, chasing a prostitute with a chainsaw could be so appealing…

I have been looking forward to this film for several years. I had read the book in college, probably around 1995 or 1996. It still stands as the most disturbing book that I have ever read. (Except for maybe Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, which was banal to the point of disturbing.) My first thought when I read the book was that I can’t wait for them to bring it to the big screen. I imagined Brad Pitt doing all these horrible things to prostitutes and maybe even forcing someone like Uma Thurman to eat a urinal cake. A half second later, I realized that it would never happen. The book was way too vile for the general American public, not to mention that most of them wouldn’t even get the point anyway. Pearls before swine, I thought…Probably less than a year later, it was announced that they would be making it into a film. Starring Leo-nerdo Di-Crapio. HA! Vindicated, I imagined Leo-nerdo shoving a HabitrailTM into Kate Winslet, while Celine Dion crooned in the background. An impossible dream, I know…

Of course, I am very happy that Leo-nerdo was not in the film. I am sure he could have done an
adequate job as Patrick Bateman, but his presence would have detracted from the film considerably. No matter how much the studios would have tried to avoid it, legions of young girls would have snuck into the film to see their darling Leonardo and then would have been subjected to the evil materialism of the eighties and it would have warped their fragile little minds, though it might have hastened the resurgence of eighties fashion….

I was very impressed that the film managed to convey the same general message as the book – what if the complete lack of social culpability of the eighties was taken one step further? That one step further was brushed under the rug just efficiently as the other issues that yuppies ignored (and still ignore). Torture and murder are problems just as easily ignored as drugs, prostitution and the homeless.

I was also intrigued by the “dumb movie watcher safety net” that was employed by this film. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy never really visited Oz, it was all just a bad dream, though in the original book, there is no doubt that she visited a very far out place. Similarly, in the film version of American Psycho, we are presented with the possibility that maybe Patrick isn’t a serial killer, maybe he just pretends that he is to relieve stress. When he returns to Paul Allen’s to find his slaughterhouse sanitized, is it because the landlord covered it up to protect property values or is it because it never occurred? Is it really possible to run through an apartment building naked,
blood-soaked, with a chainsaw without anyone noticing? Yeah, in New York it is. In the book, these elements are also there, but only to accentuate Patrick’s madness – he doesn’t even register what he is doing half the time and he doesn’t know who he himself is, anymore than his coworkers do. There is no question that the literary Patrick Bateman committed these atrocities, but the audience doesn’t have to be so sure about the filmic Patrick. Maybe he didn’t do these things…maybe that homeless guy is still alive, and the prostitutes too! Pearls before swine, indeed.

That asshole Huey Lewis pulled his song from the soundtrack, because up until a week before the film came out, he had no idea that the film was violent. It’s called ‘American Psycho’ for God’s sake. [I recently bought a used Promo copy at CD Warehouse – it has the Huey Lewis

Can I point out the strange little jig that Patrick did before axing Paul Allen? Such a beautiful allusion to A Clockwork Orange…

I really liked this film, though I am usually a purist when it comes to making my favorite books into films. As my friend Justin said, the film is a good companion piece for the book, not a replacement. I would not recommend taking a stupid person to see this film though. They will ask you why you are laughing at some yuppie hitting someone in the head with an axe, then you will have to explain the inherent humor in the situation – and they will begin to stop hanging out with you…or possibly call your mother and question her parenting skills.


Year – 2000
Rating – NC-17
Runtime – 101 minutes
Genre – Book adaptation
Director(s) – Mary Harron
Writer(s) – Bret Easton Ellis and Mary Harron
Actor(s) – Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, Justin Theroux, Chloe Sevigny
BOB Rating – Four BOBs
Favorite Quote – "I'm into um...murders and executions mostly." - Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)