Admittedly my first reading of this film was more about the surface of American Psycho (2000) which still has a very strong surface level which is still valid to how you read the film. However as I found out just recently after another viewing I have come away seeing this turn of the century film more as a dark comedy. I say that heavily as it’s not just about the comedy as I found out.
We still have the vain characters, I originally said that the yuppies were metro sexual, that label really can’t be applied anymore as they are more about indulgence than just taking better care of themselves. When we first meet Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) he’s basically acting as an advert for a way of life that we associate with women’s products for different cleansing processes which I personally laugh at. Not saying I’m a smelly guy, just not so concerned I spend half an hour getting ready in the morning. Bateman has a routine that’s dictated by consumerism no longer an individual. That’s just one strand of the film that really is more rewarding on the second watch.
I admit that I was laughing more than I originally remember, seeing what I was missing, going along for the ride instead if exploring something new. The comedy’s needed to balance out the horror that I will come to later in my reading of the film. The absurdity of the materialistic lifestyle of both the men and women who don’t do any work. The world of finance doesn’t just have to be about making money, you have to spend it obviously. With lunches, dinners and clubbing, sounds like a good life if only the conversation was more intelligent.
The men compete with each other like stereotypical women. A key thing is the business cards that replace shoes or handbags. A male translation is the “mines bigger than yours” without actually saying anything. The reliance on these items of identification and need for social validation shows how much they need each other and don’t. The stock-market stereotypes cranked up.
Moving onto the horror which I could hardly remember beyond Huey Lewis being played before the first murder. We’re removed from the satire into a completely different genre. Bateman delivers a critique of the album, well all of the popular music played, lulling his victims into an intellectual conversations. They just sit, think and wait to be killed. Its part of a methodology that he not only has outside of work, its pathological how he plans out these killings. The animal inside’s unleashed as if it has been held back by the culture he has decided to conform to is breaking him. The primal urges are breaking out within a culture that’s caged him in a suit and cologne.
I have known about this film for a few years now, ever since I was at uni really, thinking no more of it. Just a friends favourite, knowing very little about American Psycho (2000). Reading over the years very little, expect that it was on the extreme side with a cult following, about time to see what all the fuss is about then, and return some video tapes. Looking further we see a culture that seemingly turns a blind eye to all of this violence. The audience at first believes they’re being fooled into what could be his own reality. He says he wants to kill a barmaid, she ignores this venting completely. either we are only aware of this thought or the culture he lives in is deaf to violence until its acted upon.
The second viewing of the violence has admittedly lost some of its edge, becoming comical, maybe that’s me becoming desensitized to violence. Maybe it’s more Bateman’s expression derangement that gets me, he enjoys the killing, he gets a kick from it. When we see him during the day these urges start to slip over, we begin to question what is going on as other ignore him until it’s too late. When his conscience has catches up with him everything starts to fall inwards and not making much sense, leaving him and the audiences confused. This is probably not helped by private detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe) who’s been searching for Paul Allen (Jared Leto). Is this reality trying to wake Bateman up morally or just there to spur him on to kill more, knowing that he can and does throughout the film.
I must touch on the treatment of women in the film, not so much Bateman’s fiance Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon) who plays up the dim blonde stereotype. I’m more concerned about the prostitute Christie (Cara Seymour) who is basically live bait that’s reeled in to be killed. It’s horrible to see how she’s treated as less than human, more a trained monkey. You could argue this is the role she has chosen in life. She does state that she’s not supposed to get into cars, being too dangerous, knowing her own boundaries. However moneys seen as a fair reason to get in the limo for a profitable night. Psycho redeems itself for when Christie becomes aware of the trap she is actually in.
The ending is as a disturbing as Stanley Kubrick‘s rewriting of A Clockwork Orange (1971) when Alex is “Cured”. The violence seems to have no end, going on beyond the limits of the film into our own thoughts, what will he do now that society has corrected the mistake has inflicted upon him. Whereas Bateman realises that he has a get out of jail card almost, able to satisfy his urge of violence with no real consequence. Mirroring the financial world where crazy deals for silly monies made with no concept of reality for the effect they may have on others.
I can safely say that I have come out of my second viewing with a richer experience, more complete and rounded, another viewing can only being me more.
- Disturbingly Satisfying: American Psycho (2000) (literaryvittles.wordpress.com)
- All Time Classics: American Psycho (2000) (videovortex.wordpress.com)
- American Psycho (2000) (2014afo.wordpress.com)