May 27, 2011

[Movies] American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho (2000)Book to movie translations are a very mixed bag. While I don't think it's a bad idea to create movies of this sort, I do recognize that it's a major undertaking that will test any director. Plus if the studio doesn't invest the necessary resources to allow for the book's original vision to be fully realized, then there are bound to be problems.

This movie certainly felt like it was based on a book given the rather lengthy dialog. Oftentimes more than half the dialog in a book gets left on the cutting room floor but there was clearly an attempt here to carry a lot of the original words into this silver screen adaptation. The end result was a tad confusing though and it leaves me wondering about whether or not it was a good idea to tackle this film.

Then again, the subject matter was significantly complex - trying to understand the mind of a serial killer. That's hard enough to accomplish within a single novel so what more in the rather limited medium that is the thriller movie. While I can't (and wouldn't) comment on how this movie fared versus the original book, I have to admit it was quite an intriguing and yet also confusing adventure.

American Psycho is a 2000 thriller based on a book of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis. It was directed by Mary Harron and it was part of the 2000 Sundance Film Festival.

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a rather narcissistic investment banker. He lives a rather consumerist lifestyle given his obsession with appearance, status and all the trappings thereof. His life is pretty much that of a yuppie including his token girlfriend (and fiancée) Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon), his extravagant Manhattan apartment and the sorts of restaurants and clubs that he spends his free time at.

Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in the film ...Image via WikipediaBut there's a darker side to Patrick - one that includes a very significant violent streak. Over the course of the movie we bear witness to his increasing need to vent his aggressions through physical harm to others in increasingly complex and bloody ways. As his mental instability becomes more and more apparent, it seems that people around him remain oblivious to his rage, whether unconsciously or otherwise. Whatever the case, we know that Patrick's need for violence will only get worse if left unchecked.

While I have repeatedly stated that I'm bad with horror, I still have a healthy respect for the thriller. More often than not thrillers tend to explore the limits of our psychological make-up and inner balance, thus resulting in some very interesting stories. For others there's typically a crime or a mystery tied to things, thus making the shocking portions a lot more bearable since the need for the continued mental exercise. While this movie didn't have those trappings of an investigation, it still had a lot of great stuff to offer.

Christian Bale may not be a particular favorite of mine, but I won't say no to him strutting around naked while at his physical prime. His notoriety for rather extreme weight changes in line with the requirements of his movie roles is pretty impressive when you think about it. But yeah, on a shallower level one has to admit that he really looks good in this movie along with the gratuitous butt shots. Who cares if he's swinging a chain saw around at the same time, right? Run, Christian, Run!

The movie features a lot of rather cerebral discourse on a variety of subjects. On the one hand you have to respect the intellectual discussions that inevitably tie into 1980's materialism and the old yuppie concept. Plus there's the individual critiques and discussions of various musical artists of the time juxtaposed against scenes of disturbing violence and sometimes depravity. In the end though, many of these speeches just come off as weird and confusing and I can a lot of people scratching their heads as Patrick Bateman prattles on.

The ending thus becomes all the more annoying (or jarring if this is your fancy) given we don't actually have a solid resolution. One could argue that this is what may make the movie great given it's somewhat daring approach to a resolution. At the same time the message that it was trying to build up to wasn't entirely clear, thus turning the ending into a confused mess instead of a stunning climax. I wasn't exactly happy with how it turned out and it seems many other critics of the movie couldn't quite come to a consensus either.

American Psycho remains to be a cult classic with the kind of stylings that make people love it a lot or maybe hate it equally much. I'm a bit on the fence about the whole thing and it gets 3.5 narcissistic moments of Christian Pale posing naked out of 5.



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