Meanwhile, a few random thoughts ...
|Sometimes an ATM card just won't do.|
Warning ... Spoilers
- In a nutshell, the protagonist, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), is hollow and insufferably boring. Everyone in his social circles is equally dull and shallow, not to mention misogynistic, bigoted, and mean spirited. They even look alike -- interchangeable '80s yuppies with the same clothes and designer glasses. They seem basically harmless, though despicable, except that Patrick's hobby is torturing and murdering people. These guys prattle on about restaurant reservations, business cards, and personal care products until we were practically begging Bateman to brutally whack somebody, just to alleviate the tedium.
- Patrick looks chronically bored. His life is full of pleasures many people would envy, including expensive restaurants, trendy night clubs, porn, drugs, booze, and sex with beautiful women. Nothing of substance, but enough to keep most people entertained. Even when he is bangaranging some gorgeous woman, he looks fossilized by boredom. (I've been waiting for an opportunity to use the word "bangaranging" since I watched Earrings with Director's Commentary. Now I have! Life is good.) He only seems to come alive when he's committing a murder.
- The combination of dark humor and the sheer absurdity of these yuppie clones seemed to work -- we were laughing out loud through much of the movie. It was sometimes unclear whether we were appreciating the film's humor or just laughing at the sheer WTFness of it all.
- The big debate about this novel and movie is whether Patrick Bateman actually committed his crimes. When I read the novel, I was convinced -- based on the spiraling absurdity of his exploits and lack of actual evidence noticed by anyone else -- that it was an elaborate, sick fantasy. A fictional experience inside a fictional novel. A dream within a dream -- y'know, like Inception. I basically stand by my interpretation, but ...
- On the other hand, Patrick may actually be a ruthless killer, and the way he gets away with gratuitous violence in the middle of a crowded city is part of the satire. In The City That Never Sleeps, everybody is too self absorbed to notice a damn thing, whether it's a homeless person and his dog starving, while all around him people take cabs to overpriced restaurants and clubs, or some dude leaving a trail of blood as he drags a corpse, swaddled in a sheet, down the sidewalk. And no one believes Patrick is capable of such crimes simply because he's so damn boring. The movie is actually a lot funnier and more thought provoking, albeit more disturbing, when interpreted this way.
- In this discussion thread on IMDB, director Mary Harron is quoted as saying: "You should not trust anything that you see. Trying to feed the cat into the ATM is sort of a giveaway. The ATM speaking to Bateman certainly indicates that things have taken a more hallucinatory turn." (Really? Y'think? :-)) However, she is also quoted as saying: One thing I think is a failure on my part is people keep coming out of the film thinking that its all a dream, and I never intended that. All I wanted was to be ambiguous in the way that the book was. I think it's a failure of mine in the final scene because I just got the emphasis wrong. I should have left it more open ended. It makes it look like it was all in his head, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not (the complete interview can be found here).
- Once again, we have a movie that's "open to interpretation," a favorite topic of conversation in this house. :-) Let me explain. Twice, my daughter has written to obscure indie writer/directors she admires asking for clarification of certain films. Unsurprisingly, neither director wanted to elucidate. Each time, she was told: "It's open to interpretation." I read that as either: "the ambiguity is part of my art," or better yet: "I was REALLY fuckin' stoned when I wrote that screenplay, so I'm not sure what the hell it was about."
I need to cast my vote for the worst psycho-killer. Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon or Patrick Bateman in American Psycho?
In Hannibal's Favor:
- He's smarter than Bateman. Dr. Lecter is a clever, highly educated psychiatrist. Patrick? I'd say average intelligence at best. The most intellectual conversations we ever hear him carry on are about the merits of mainstream '80s music. Hannibal talks about the nuances of human psychology. Patrick gets excited about facials and business cards. "I need to return some videos."
- He'll not only tear you apart, but he knows just how to use each of your parts in a recipe. He prizes his cookbook collection. That's some creepy shit.
- He's notorious. He gets fan mail, from whack jobs, in the high security looney bin. People get creeped out talking about him. Patrick Bateman? Even his dumbass friends can't remember his name.
- Since Patrick is the poster child for unreliable narrators, we're not even sure whether he committed his crimes.
- What kind of Epic Badass drones on and on about designer clothes and personal care products?
|Do you like Huey Lewis & the news?|
On Patrick's Behalf:
- He claims to have killed 20, maybe 40 people -- he's lost count. Hannibal can't claim half that many. Amateur.
- You've gotta admire a dude who knows how to use power tools.
- O.K., we've established the fact that these whack-jobs prey on their own species, but what kind of sick son of a bitch attacks a guy's dog?
- Red Dragon was essentially a quiet read for me -- a traditional thriller with some sick twists thrown in. American Psycho had me screaming WHAT THE FUCK!?! on a semi-regular basis.
- Bateman and his dumb friends are practically indistinguishable yuppie clones -- when Patrick's friends meet him, they often confuse him with someone else. That happens all the time in their circles. This provides GREAT camouflage.
- Hannibal represents a distinct kind of psychopath who's rare in our society. Patrick is a kind of everyman anti-hero. He reflects many shades of evil, from having a severed head in his fridge to simply being a shallow, misogynistic prick. So in a sense, he represents a lot of people. If that doesn't keep you up at night, I don't know what will.
Based on the fact that he won my list-duel by a nose, especially on the merits of #4 (and maybe #6), I'm going with Patrick Bateman. Check back at The Estella Society on Oct. 31 to see who wins the final vote.