American Psycho

American Psycho is one of the more overrated films to be made this year. Sure, one can glean a lot of insight about the excesses of the 80s, but I think that's a decade misjudged hypocritically (as if the 90s or the 70s were better). Sure, a female director (Mary Harron) has presented a view that's novel and probably wouldn't have been accomplished by a male director with the same material, but it's an erratic and disjointed perspective. Sure, there's a twist at the end that's intriguing, but the suspension of disbelief it requires is much greater than the ones required in films The Sixth Sense or Arlington Road. Sure, it's somewhat controversial, but except for a few moments of satirical insight and humour, American Psycho is simply boring and tedious to watch.

The movie is a surreal trip through the psychosis of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), immortalised in pop culture by Bret Easton Ellis' controversial novel. Bateman is a Wall Street yuppie in the 80s riding high on the capitalism wave which slowly consumes him. Although he gets to wear designer clothing, eat at the most select restaurants, and live in an expensive upscale apartment in Upper West Side in New York City, his life isn't complete and so he engages in extremely violent sexual behaviour to get his kicks.

The movie is about male misogyny and ego, and generally how a lot of male preoccupations have to do with their existential forlornness, but do we really need to see a movie about a self-absorbed psychotic Wall Street middle-manager to figure that out? I think the movie would've been better (on a satirical level) if it was made clear exactly what Bateman was going through (i.e., if the twist at the end was at the beginning), and Bateman's craziness was shown through other lenses instead of his own, in a more subtle manner. The violence is hardly shocking. Perhaps I've been densensisted too much, but really, the gore level in the film is quite low. The cinematography is excellent and the opening sequence is one of the more clever ones I've seen. As I say above, the movie is funny, but only at times. It's funny the first time when Bateman pseudointellectualises about Huey Lewis and the News before going on a murdering spree. It's simply boring when he does it again about Phil Collins and Whitney Houston. The movie simply focuses so much on Bateman's narcissism that it glorifies instead of satirising it. The lack of subtlety would insult me if I wasn't so bored by it. By the end, the movie itself becomes what it is trying to satirise; the outside looks great, but the inside is empty, just like Bateman.

The actors are all excellent and while I sensed several awkward moments in the dialogue, I would place the responsibility on the writing. Bale is definitely convincing as a seething unsatisfied psychotic (all his material possessions only serve to dehumanise and so he must kill to live) and Chloe Sevigny's performance as Bateman's secretary is excellent--she is the light of sanity in the dark Wall Street world. (If you think that last comment was bad, wait till you see the movie!)

Unless you're a film critic-type of person who (masochistically) enjoys watching badly made pretentious film making so they can spew more BS like the kind above, I recommend skipping American Psycho. There's nothing here that an intelligent person who has barely scrutinised the 80s can't get, and there's no reason to sit through almost two hours of tripe to get to it. And for anyone who feels smug about the way the 80s are portrayed here---the 90s aren't that different.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||