American Psycho Film Review
Directed by Mary Harron
Released in 2000
A successful young man working on Wall Street in the 1980's finds himself getting sucked deeper in to his obsessive and murderous behaviour.
Mary Harron's film version of the superb Brett Easton Ellis novel is not for the faint hearted. Patrick Bateman is a young successful VP of Pierce and Pierce on Wall Street. On the outside Patrick has it all, money, friends and good looks, this is enough for his group, but not for him.
We are introduced early on to the traits that at his base level show Bateman as an Obsessive Compulsive. All his routines are meticulous and everything that his does or plans has to be perfect. Everything that he does within his work and social circle is done to conform, but he sees himself as far superior to everybody else and is reviled by any show of appreciation by the group for anything that doesn't stem from him.
After killing a tramp and his dog in an alley, Bateman finds himself on a murderous spiral fuelled by his compulsions and need to satisfy his lust. The combination of his need to kill and need to be the Alpha in his group finds him inviting fellow employee Paul Allen out to dinner and back to his apartment. Allen has been admired by all of Bateman's close friends Bateman cannot handle this. Bateman murders Allen and fakes his disappearance in a weak attempt to cover his tracks. It is after killing Allen that we start to recognise the complete indifference that general populous has to what is going on around them. Bateman drags Allen's body out through the lobby of his appartment block in a large bag. A trail of blood is clearly visible on the floor as he makes his way to the door, but the Maitre de is oblivious. Bateman evens hails a taxi and puts the body in the boot (trunk)!
This sense of almost denial of anything else that happens outside of your own little bubble is clear when many of the main characters refer to others by completely different names, thinking they are speaking to someone else. It seems to be an indictment of the times. One of conformity, greed, opulence, vanity and material wealth.
As Bateman falls deeper and deeper in to his personal hell, he finds it impossible to control his need to kill. Something that was previously a preserve of the night, was now spilling in to the day and he knows that he is completely losing any ability to stop himself. He starts to push away anybody that his close to him. The only person that you get a sense he feels anything for is secretary Jean. This is a woman who would never be accepted in to his circle, but Bateman strikes an affinity with her because she is 'normal', he's not used to this, but one feels that this what he needs.
Indispersed throughout the film is a brilliant 80's soundtrack, New Order, Phil Collins, Robert Palmer, Whitney Houston et al. Most of the songs are upbeat and contrast and compliment the scenes that they partner. Bateman's obsessive nature is even evident along with the music as in 2 scenes he dissects a Whitney Houston and Phil Collins album.
As with most transitions from book to screen there are different interpretations of character and story, and this is no exception. Having read and watched, I am left with 2 different conclusions to Bateman's character. I feel the book defines far more graphically the make up and mental state of the man, where as the film concentrates on creating someone overtaken by societies demands to have him conform, but also be the best.
In conclusion this is a stellar performance by Bale and great direction by Mary Harron. A terrifying vision of compulsion gone mad!