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.
Great post! I'd go with Bateman (just barely too) because he blends in more. Like you said, Lecter's notorious, but Bateman blends into the crowd, making him even scarier.ReplyDelete
The funniest scene in the movie, for me, was his meeting his lawyer after that long angst-ridden confession of all his crimes. His own lawyer had him confused with someone else, of course, and thought he'd called in this bogus confession to prank Patrick Bateman.Delete
"Patrick Bateman is such a DORK -- the idea of his actually killing someone ... but otherwise it was amusing."
Apparently Bateman was so dull and anonymous no one would suspect him of a crime even if he turned himself in. I guess someone like that could get away with anything.
YES! Bateman outranks Lecter. I love it.ReplyDelete
As for the open endedness of the film, I'm always of the school of thought that what is on screen (or on the page) is what is on screen. If Harron wanted to give a clear-cut answer, then she would've. I'm not sure if there is one defining interpretation.
So, who the hell knows. But I do think it's one hell of a wild ride getting there. Love American Psycho.
And thanks for the commentary link, glad you were able to use that marvelous word haha!
I don't really think there is a "correct" interpretation here, and it kind of works on both levels simultaneously. Does that make sense?Delete
You're welcome for the link. Thanks for introducing "bangarang" to my lexicon.
I like your Inception-like interpretation. And I laughed out loud at the bit about the director's response :P I won't comment on the likelihood of their being stoned, but I kind of like that they refused to give a definite interpretation since I'm so sceptical of authorial intent to begin with :PReplyDelete
You have a good point about authorial intent. :-) There's a certain chemistry between a book or movie and an individual reader -- everyone's interpretation is his own. Until people start coming up with wildly pretentious analyses just to write papers. *LOL* Then I might draw the line. Can you tell I used to be an English major?Delete
Two excellent films. I think American Psycho is kind of a warning. A lot of old films are classed as dated and not shocking enough now.ReplyDelete
Bateman goes further and further to get his thrills, and I think this mirrors violence in the history of cinema. What can possibly shock on screen in 100 years? With the torture horror movies around today, I dread to even think of it. Maybe we won't even be watching, but taking part in a virtual horror world!
That's an interesting interpretation of American Psycho and definitely plausible. Thanks, Chris!Delete
Great post! I like the comparison to Inception. I watched American Phycho ages ago and I remember being shocked and disgusted.ReplyDelete
I don't know though, I think I'd have to go with Hannibal. Bateman has an annoying personality. They both scare the hell out of me lol
Thanks, Naida. I couldn't agree more about Bateman's annoying personality. I think that's part of why -- for me -- he edged out Lecter. Lecter fits the stereotype of the smooth, charming psychopath. Bateman? If I met him in real life, I would completely dismiss him.Delete
If you were shocked and disgusted by the movie (completely understandable) I don't recommend reading the book. It's MUCH worse. :)
Awesome post! So glad to see Patrick win, though Hannibal would probably be in my top 5 of movie psychos. For me the fact that Bateman isn't famous and people don't know about his activities makes him even scarier - after all he is such a boring, ordinary guy to an outside world while he is capable of killing literally anyone he wants.ReplyDelete
Great, great movie that still gets me to this day. Bale is incredible in this role and makes Patrick Bateman one of the most memorable, iconic figures of the past decade. Nice review Stephanie.ReplyDelete
Thanks! Yes, Bale was terrific in that role.Delete
American Psycho didn't do much for me, but I never read the book, so that was probably a big part of it. Good review and comparison.ReplyDelete
Thanks! The film should be able to stand alone, without needing to read the book, in my opinion. This movie probably just wasn't your cup of tea. :-)Delete
I definitely agree with you. Lecter is scary in his intelligence and ruthlessness. But Bateman is even worse in his unpredictability. You never know when he is going to go off the deep-end or just how far he is going to go. That is seriously disturbing to me.ReplyDelete
Well said, Michelle!Delete
I really really want to see the movie version of American Psycho but I'm terrified that if it even a smidgen as graphic as the book that I'll throw up or something.ReplyDelete
I'd have to give Bateman my vote too. This is something too wild and unpredictable and callous that makes him seem more of a monster and a waste of a human.
As for whether it was in his mind … I HATE THAT KIND OF ENDING!!! I think he is unreliable but in the end, I think he did what he said.
The movie adaptation is MUCH less graphic than the book. If it weren't, it probably wouldn't be allowed anywhere near theaters. :-)Delete
I love the way you put this: "something too wild and unpredictable and callous that makes him seem more of a monster and a waste of a human."
Im new to this discussion but Im glad you wrote about this movie. For me it didn't mateer if Bateman killed those people or not because no one cared that he did. Great jobReplyDelete