Bret Easton Ellis’s satirical novel American Psycho, written in 1991, revolutionized the idea of censorship in the book publishing industry. The novel was originally going to be published by Simon & Shuster however, the company withdrew due to “taste issues.”
The same thing happened with many other publishers and the book was even denied overseas. It was eventually published in a paperback version by Vintage Books. One could say it turned a page in the notion of censorship and politically correctness.
American Psycho is simply about a guy who acts out his fantasies where most people merely think them.
Or is it?
There is much controversy among the blogosphere about this film, specifically the ending. Many call it the most complex ending with the most complex twist…of course this is only a determination by the viewers themselves.
The film approaches the obsessive and compulsive lifestyle of an upscale investment banking executive during Wall Street’s lucrative days in the late 1980s. Director Mary Harron (The Notorious Bettie Page and The Moth Diaries) provides us with an in-depth look into our main character and the film’s narrator Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) whose entire life revolves around his appearance, high-rise apartment, upscale wardrobe and what is more important, compulsions of killing.
In his head, using 6 different types of facial washes and doing 1,000 crunches a day defines him as a person.
“I have all the characteristics of a human being – flesh, blood, skin, hair – but not one single clear identifiable emotion, except greed and disgust.”
Bateman represents a typical narcissist. Everything he does is scripted, glamorized and as if in front of an audience. Where typical people have a discussion, Bateman acts as if he is auditioning for an acting role. Even while having sex, he acts as if he is in some pornographic video or posing for some Hollywood picture.
“There is an idea of Patrick Batmen, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity.”
The relationship with his fiancé Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) is one that lacks love, romance and riddled with lies and deceit. The two character interact as if having two simultaneous conversations. They exists only as a status symbol…nothing more. Bateman’s character interacts with women on a scripted and disinterested level. Even the prostitutes he picks up are treated as obedient objects devoid of personality and emotions.
What would normally cause people to become jealous – salaries, jobs, women – seem to go unnoticed to Patrick. Instead, business card designs and reservations at New York’s finest restaurants do. And how does Patrick deal with his stressors: sociopathic, impulsive and premeditated violence.
Whether he is killing bums, torturing women or feeding cats to ATM machines, American Psycho offers a good representations of a man losing control of his impulses.
As his compulsions get stronger, Bateman becomes sloppier in his methods. As a result, we are introduced to the films main conflict. The character of Det. Donald Kimball, played by the equally creepy Willem Dafoe. While Bateman has designed this elaborate system to keep up his serial killing lifestyle, Kimball at his office door asking him questions. With these questions we see the true Bateman emerge. Like layers of an onion, Bateman slowly unravels and by the end of the film, he’s a different person.
American Psycho is not a film likely directed by a woman, at first. Due to its harsh nature towards women, it seems like a sensitive topic for a woman to wrestle. As the film progresses, the feministic approach sinks in. The way the director Harron illustrates her utter disgust for these Wall Street executives – she obviously has a hidden agenda. Instead of glamorizing Bateman, she does the one thing a Narcissist despises – ignores them.
As stated above, the films’ conclusion is a mixed bag. I feel that the life of Patrick Bateman is one of emptiness and mental illness. His whole life seems like an illusion, which makes the ending so complex for interpretation. He is a real man of flesh and blood…but in his mind, is he that same man? He seems like the most mentally unstable guy, but does that mean he is imagining these heinous acts?
American Psycho is cold, dark yet riddled with comedy. A great movie is one that can take the a terrible subject and make it funny, yet still horrific (GoodFellas and Casino are good examples of this). Christian Bale is spine-chilling, crazy, yet still possesses some sort of class unmatched by most.