Directed by Mary Harron, 2005
I remember seeing American Psycho theatrically. This may be embarrassing of my age, but I was 15 at the time and was dropped off at the movie theater with a group of friends in a minivan. Grant’s mom, the driver, had no desire to see the movie, but we weren’t allowed in without an adult, so she asked a complete stranger if he would take us in. I’m not entirely sure I’d take a group of 15 year old kids piling out of a minivan into an R rated film, but the man said yes. I didn’t get a single thing about the movie at such a young age – especially the ending – but now that I’ve got some years, some cinematic taste buds and a beard, I can fully appreciate this venerable masterpiece of satire.
I think Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel is sheer brilliance. I think it an untouchable film that is immune to any ill will and which couldn’t possibly be improved upon.
While I appreciate Ellis’ novel, I do think that Harron and Guinevere Turner’s script is a far more efficient depiction of the unequivocal psychosis which penetrates the psyche of material driven American ideals. Patrick Bateman is a great character, but it is no longer possible for me to distinguish him from Christian Bale’s flawless delivery. He is greed. He is materialism. He is jealousy. He is vanity. He is everything that defined the ’80s power businessman as such an absurd and unrealistic goal. I think it is the most under-sold performance of the last decade.
The script is unrelenting in its humor, both light and jet black. The stabs at ’80s vanity can be seen in every single scene, thanks to Mary Harron’s ability to micromanage her cast, script and production design into perfect equilibrium. She delivers each thrust with surgical precision that I think makes her work here – and the film as a whole – one of the most underrated movies ever made.
The acting is sharp and always, always on point. The supporting cast may all have minor roles, but they all deliver – especially Justin Theroux and Josh Lucas, who are both hilarious as part of Bateman’s Manhattanite posse. And special mention goes to Chloe Sevigny, who is oh so meek as Bateman’s idolizer secretary.
The dialogue is all beyond witty and is a bottomless source of quotes and laughs. The cinematography is slick and contemporary, while often times reverting into romantic territory. The score is lucid and penetrating. The combination of it all is utterly euphoric.
The film’s voice can be heard so loud and clear that I’m surprised I was deaf to it even at 15. The ending is certainly open to interpretation as to whether Patrick Bateman’s crimes ever really took place, but its engineering alone is deserving of some kind of monument. Harron and Turner were able to weave a story of psychosis that goes well beyond the illusory reality of a singular Patrick Bateman and can be found in the brain of both the believer and the atheist, regardless if they acknowledge its presence or not.
Like everything in Patrick Bateman’s life, American Psycho is without blemish or flaw. It is micromanaged to the most minute and seemingly unimportant detail. It is a rarity of a film that never, ever misses its mark and was well ahead of critical tastes at the time of its release, along with Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. It is one of my favorite films of all time and never ceases to entertain me with its brazen, self-delight and teeth so sharp they could cut diamonds.