Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Discussion of the Week - American Psycho

American Psycho is a movie that I did not care for the first time I watched it. Maybe it was because I was too young to really get it or maybe it was because I watched the edited version on TV - probably a combination of both of these factors - but I have grown to love and appreciate the movie and completely agree with HorrorHound's recent list that it is one of the best horror films in the last decade. Whether or not you consider American Psycho a horror film is a discussion all its own, but what i'm here to discuss with you guys is the ambiguous ending of the movie. It's completely open to the individual viewers interpretation - which is something I love - but I want to know your personal thoughts on the matter.

Did Patrick Bateman really kill all those people and get away with it or was the whole movie a product of his demented imagination?

I love the ideas of both of these interpretations. The implication of the first is that the rich can really get away with anything, something that kinda seems to be true in this world. Bateman is a sadistic fuck who can't stop killing people and wants to get caught - but he can't, even when he admits what he's done, due to his high social status. It's an awesome idea - Bateman being trapped in his own personal hell with no escape - but personally, I prefer the second interpretation and it's the one that fits in with the whole movie the best.

One of the main themes of the movie is vanity and the importance of how we look to others, which is an obsession of Bateman's, and that's why the idea that all of the killings were merely in his head holds the most power for me. We always hear that it's what's on the inside that counts, but really, as far as society is concerned, it's mostly what's on the outside that counts. Bateman knows this and despite the fact that he envisions himself killing everyone he knows, works with, and encounters - something he'd love to actually act out - he keeps his cool and appears normal to the people around him, the same people he wants to kill, and thus, it really doesn't even matter what's going on inside his head. Bateman is an attractive, in shape, rich, and successful American man with a nice business card - that's what's important, right?

I think it's safe to say that we all day dream from time to time of taking an axe to a co-worker or random person on the street but we don't do it and that's really all that matters. We put the thoughts out of our head, act normal, and try our best to fit in. Again, it's what people can see on the surface that counts. If we appear normal, then we can get in no trouble for our imagined actions and nobody will be the wiser. As Bateman says in one of the closing lines of the film, "...inside doesn't matter". As far as i'm concerned, that's the whole idea of the entire film and it's that compelling and ballsy idea that makes the movie so interesting and different to me and it's also why I think it works so well from the perspective of a female director. After all, women know better than anyone the sad truth that outer beauty is a lot more important in this day and age than what lies inside...

What's your interpretation? Leave a comment and let's discuss it!


carl4job said...

I haven't read the book, which may clarify the issue...but in my opinion, it's fairly obvious that Bateman IMAGINED the murders he comitted.
He was watching "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and then suddenly had a chainsaw and was chasing a hooker down the halls.
He was watching porno and suddenly he was having wild sex with two women!
He apparantly didn't kill Jared Leto because Leto's character was seen alive after he "killed" him.
Maybe he did actually kill the homeless guy and his dog...still, I'm not sure.
The men around him and the "President" on TV were even worse than him.
No, Bateman was a coward... a superficial, ambitious,self- centered, closeted, immature narcissist.
He was everything that was wrong with men in the 80s and we should learn from his example... how, NOT to behave.

Nik Holmes said...

Haven't seen the movie in a few years, but I'd say the events do take place. The scene which comes to mind is whenhe returns to his murder apartment(Pauls Apartment I think) and find it is up for rent. the whole place has had a fresh lick of paint and there are Air Fresheners hung around. The realtor knows, which is why she warns him off, but more importantly she knows that she can fetch a hefty dollar for the place if she says nothing of its past. That's the core of the film, and one you stated yourself, it's all about surface and appearance. No one cares for what transpires beneath the surface. And that is Batemans nightmare. Not that he is unable to perform these acts, but that he does commit them and no one cares. When someone says they saw Paul in Europe, of course they didn't. In the same way that People confuse Patrick with others, the same with Paul. Even when he has been wiped off the face of the planet, no one misses him as all of the relationships in the movie are so shallow. That for me is the horror for Patrick. Great film, but more importantly GREAT performance by Bale. I remember at one point after the films release the studio wanted to turn Bateman into a franchise character, like James Bond was the quote. Thankfully everyone said no, so they got Bill shatner in and made the ropey looking sequel. That sequel suggests the events are real, but obviously that sequel has as much authority as the Star Wars holiday special.

Bjornabo said...

I don`t know if you have read the book book by Brett Easton Ellis, but I must say that the movie is NOTHING compared to the book.

The book is so graphic that even I thought it was hardcore. But it one of the greatest books ever written.

I did not lie the movie the first time I saw it either. I thought if differed to much from the book, and that there were many scenes that was "missing".

But just like you said, the movie grows on you after a couple of views.

My thought about Bateman is that he really does all the sick things, and as you say, in the end he does not care and he wants to be caught.

Nik Holmes said...

I thought the book was incredibly well written. I read it a few years before the movie came out and so was unaware of the content and where things were heading. This lack of knowledge served the book amazingly well as Ellis slowly builds the violence at such a snails pace that you are first drawn into Batemens twisted world view (the book is a first person narrative) and by the time the violence begins to erupt, already you are viewing the world through Batemans shallow mysoginistic mindset. Everything he does is unmistakenly abhorrent but his detached approach to it all gets you through even the most depraved chapters. I can't imagine reading the book for the first time if I'd seen the film, firstly because you know where things are going but also because Bale has injected Bateman with far more charm than he truly deserves. I found the film a fantastic adaptation however, and my only complaint was the inclusion of TCM. It's just to grimey a pick for Bateman in my opinion, and the original choice of Body Double in the book as Batemans flick of choice is far more telling. Slick, flashy and sexist. TCM felt a little too 'obvious' and more the choice of a movie fan than Body double with it's oh so subtle impaling of naked women with giant drill/penis.

Zach S. said...

The book is amazing, Bret Easton Ellis has a way of crafting a universe and having others collide with it. Patrick Batemen is actually the older brother of Sean Bateman in RULES OF ATTRACTION. A book Ellis wrote while in college. Reading his other works, you'll pick up taces in GLAMORAMA as well. The film is greatly underappreciated and would've been entirely different if they went with their original choice over Bale; Leonardo DiCaprio. Swish that taste around in your mouth for a bit.

Jason said...

Good topic Johnny! I am a big fan of the movie and have read the book. The best way to think of them is as a satire. The entire world that Bateman lives is a spoof of the late 80s excess. All of Bateman's friends and his fiance are just as self absorbed and greedy as he is. The difference is that Bateman acknowledges it. His acts of murder and saying obsence things is a test to see if anyone will notice or care.

Carl4Job assumes that the acts are imaginary because Bateman watches Texas Chainsaw and then usese a chainsaw. What if watching the movie inspired him to use it? Obviously Batman is having some form of break down, (the ATM machine telling him to feed it a cat). Alot of this is Bateman's internal "movie" in which he imagines himself as the star. The movie star being the pinnacle of our culture's fame laddar. Sorry if I am rambling and I hope that makes sense.

B-Movie Becky said...

I'm definitely inclined to think it was all in his imagination, as the events become more and more infused with the fantastical as the film goes on.

I didn't like it all that much on my first viewing either because I was too young to understand it at 13. Plus, that orgy scene completely weirded me out. However, I love the movie now, having matured a bit.

Detector said...

I love Bale in American. I find him bland in the Batman films though. I don't know why. I honestly don't think he pulled it off as well as Michael Keaton.

I actually could not read the novel all the way through because I found it too disturbing after a while. I have nothing against sick stuff because I read a lot of horror but at the time I was reading it it was just too much, I was actually working in Manhattan and starting to fantasize about killing people on the subway just cuz I'd be reading that book on a crowded train.

Scott said...

Having watched this movie with director/writer commentary the whole idea was that it DID happen and people were all too self absorbed and only interested in making money that they either pretended things werent happening or simply didnt care enough to even notice.

Its not portrayed crystal clear in the movie but it makes sense after hearing it explained. I myself always took it as it being all in his head when I first watched it.