The nervously anticipated American Psycho reaches our shores with its notorious character Patrick Bateman giving us a personal tour of all that was wrong with the 80s and then some. This tour is a critique of the times that still has relevance today. This excellent film with Baleís forcible performance discards the worrisome features of the novel and makes as an interesting and humorous examination of the times.I avoided reading the Brett Easton Ellis novel. I had bits read to me by a friend. You know the sort of friend. The sort you think is OK until they start reading you the gory bits from American Psycho.
I donít see him anymore.
Because of the explicit violence in the novel, the real point of the novel - the satirical criticism of the 80s greed culture - has been largely overlooked. Harron largely plays down the explicit violence of the novel and instead concentrates on the things the novel had to say about this culture.
As we see from the opening sequence that seems like blood and a facemask he puts on towards the beginning of the film - everything about the world of Patrick Bateman (Bale) is not what it seems. He is a VP for Pierce and Pierce - a mergers and acquisitions company. Supremely vain, he is surrounded by people that either serve or compete with him. Almost completely without feeling and never satisfied, he hides a dark desire.
The first thing you notice about this film (apart from the thankfully low amount of explicit violence) is the humour. Bale as Bateman is way over the top. This is especially evident in his vocal delivery (itís almost to the same degree as Jim Carreyís Me, Myself and Irene bad guy) and his analysis of bland populist 80s music. Itís a dark humour, but humour nevertheless.
What also was funny was DaFoe as Detective Donald Kimble going on all Colombo on us by repeatedly meeting and quizzing Bateman in exactly the same style as Peter Falkís character. Admittedly DaFoe didnít have the Iím-on-my-third-bottle-of-whiskey persona that Falk had, but everything else is there.
With the humour turned up and the violence turned down, Harron is able to concentrate on what she felt were the important and worthwhile features of the infamous novel.
This film gives a satirical criticism of the narcissistic and greedy 80s. It takes a type of person that is already an example of all that was wrong with the decade, then adds a totally over top feature with him being a serial killer. It then uses that character to show just how awful the times were especially for a particular section of the community.
Apart from mergers and acquisitions sounding rather like murders and executions, the reason that Bateman has this job is that the industry has very little interest in anything else except status and making money - a key feature of the 80s. Bateman is the embodiment of all that was wrong with the 80s. Then his character is taken to an absurd extreme to make sure we know that this guy is one disgusting being - and so were the 80s.
The 80s: What an awful time - Itís lucky the world survived this time of share market obsessions and shonky investments in no-future projects. Where people were judging things purely on how it will effect their bank accounts and whether they were better than the neighbours.
Yes, lucky weíve escaped all that.
In our enlightened times of course itís not as if we are obsessed with money, that in record numbers we head off to play on the stock market. We donít argue government policy purely on the grounds of the amount of money that will end up in our pockets. We donít invest in quick rich schemes, marveling at people who became obscenely rich from basically nothing except promises. Itís not as if we donít throw ourselves into work with longer hours and pursuits of promotion to massage our status driven egos -
Thatís precisely whatís happening today.
Has anything really changed since the 80s apart for the hairstyles?American Psycho is just as relevant today as it was a decade ago. The same conditions exist today. We are still living the horror of American Psycho. Harron and Baleís turn at this novel has been a relevant, prudent, interesting and thought provoking film.