Thursday 3 May 2012

American Psycho (2000)

Based on the fantastic book by Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho is, to be perfectly honest, an astonishingly great movie that's boosted by a mesmerising central performance by Christian Bale and a script that lines up memorable scene after memorable scene. In all seriousness, I was very tempted to turn this review into nothing more than a selection of excerpts from the script. The scene involving the lead character explaining his love of Hue Lewis & The News is rightly regarded as a classic, mixing humour and insanity in equal measure and leading to a jaw-droppingly superb punchline.

The 80s, a decade of bad taste and excessive wealth. The rise and rise of the yuppie. The accessories and the lifestyle accoutrements became essential to many, a way to show your identity through prestigious brand names and expensive fashions. And those with the richest and easiest lifestyles all seemed to be doing the same job which was, well, something to do with money that other mere mortals never quite understood. In fact, it often didn't seem like work at all as these people went to "business lunch" after "business lunch". American Psycho looks at all of this with a cold and accurate eye for detail. Everything is brought to our attention by the behaviour of the psychopathic Patrick Bateman (Bale).

A great big middle finger raised to the rise and rise of materialism and the erasing of individual personalities, and their morals, in the workplace, American Psycho is hilarious from start to finish if you have the right sense of humour to enjoy the pitch black material. It's also equally, and impressively, disturbing from start to finish.

 Director Mary Harron (who adapted the novel to screenpla form with Guinevere Turner) deserves a lot of credit for getting the tone just right and following through with every brave decision made in getting the source material onscreen but just as much praise can be heaped upon a flawless cast. Christian Bale takes the lead role by the scruff of the neck and becomes Bateman. Perhaps this is most appropriate because the character views himself as nothing in the first place (a shell to be inhabited by whichever performance best suits, perhaps?). Despite such a strong lead performance, nobody in a supporting role ever feels completely overshadowed because the material is so good and the performers are most definitely able to rise to the occasion. Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Chloe Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Cara Seymour, I could just list everyone involved to give them their due but, instead, I encourage you to just watch the movie and enjoy every single piece of acting onscreen.

Whether he's discussing the greats of 80s pop, worrying about new business cards, telling people how he has to rush off to return some videotapes or considering feeding a cat to an ATM, Patrick Bateman is a character you enjoy watching even as you alternately cringe, recoil and laugh at his actions. The movie is defined by him in the same way that he is defined by his perceived status. It's also essential viewing.


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