Sunday, October 29, 2017

American Psycho

Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho is the story of a yuppie whose vanity and need to conform has him embarking on a killing spree as he struggles with himself and his desires to succeed during the late 1980s. Directed by Mary Harron and screenplay by Harron and Guinevere Turner, the film is a study of a man trying to a rich yet unrealistic lifestyle as he would also kill in secret as a way to deal with troubled identity as the lead character of Patrick Bateman is played by Christian Bale. Also starring Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, Samantha Mathis, Josh Lucas, Cara Seymour, Matt Ross, Justin Theroux, Guinevere Turner, and Willem Dafoe. American Psycho is an exhilarating yet insane film from Mary Harron.

The film follows an investment banker in Patrick Bateman who lives a life of luxury where he has a routine to maintain his lifestyle that includes having friends who are just as shallow as he is while is secretly harboring a need to kill people. It’s the study of a man who is becoming undone by things that are either threatening him or encountering something he absolutely despises. The film’s screenplay by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner is told from Bateman’s perspective as he’s also the film’s narrator as this man that is quite vain and has this routine in what he needs to do to keep himself in shape and not age. At the same time, he has this desire to succeed but he always feel like there is someone to upstage him in this position of power and he has to act out. Bateman is quite a despicable character in the way he would treat women and colleagues as well as those who are beneath him. There is also this air of arrogance and narcissism in him in the way he talks about certain pieces of music he owns or the clothes he wears.

The script also has this air of dark humor such as the scene where he invites Paul Allen (Jared Leto) into his apartment where he asks Allen if he likes Huey Lewis & the News. The monologues that Bateman gives about his love for Lewis, Genesis, Phil Collins, and Whitney Houston are among some of the finest monologues as they’re told with a sense of style. All of it play into Bateman’s persona which is also filled with anguish during the second act when he invites his secretary Jean (Chloe Sevigny) to dinner as they have drinks at his apartment where he wants to kill her but he’s also listening to her talk. It’s a moment where things would shift not just in tone but also in Bateman’s development as it blur the lines between reality and fiction.

Harron’s direction definitely bears element of style yet it plays more into this world of materialism, conformity, and decadence that was so prevalent during the 1980s. Though it is based in New York City, much of the film was shot in Toronto with some exterior shots of New York City to play into this very intense world of money and power. While there are some wide shots that Harron would create to establish some of the locations, much of it shot with close-ups and medium shots to get a look into the world that Bateman has surrounded himself in. Notably in the restaurants as they play to the silliest of trends where one menu is presented in braille, another menu at a different restaurant where the menu is made of wood, and all of these other places to play into a New York City that is filled with a lack of realism. It adds to this air of ambiguity that looms throughout the film as it relates to the things Bateman wants to do where reality and fiction blur. One scene early in the film is at a nightclub where he tried to get a drink and then says something very profane about killing the bartender to the mirror and then do nothing.

Harron’s direction also has this element of dark humor such as a scene of Bateman displaying this monologue about Huey Lewis & the News while wearing a raincoat and carrying an axe to kill someone. Other comical moments involve a three-way with a couple of prostitutes where Bateman is videotaping the act while looking at himself showing that vanity into his own power. The moments of violence are gruesome as it includes an encounter with a homeless man and his dog as well as these off-screen moments that play into Bateman’s thirst for blood. The film’s ending is also ambiguous as it play into that blur of fantasy and reality as well as Bateman forcing to face himself in this world that demands so much of him. Overall, Harron crafts a witty yet intoxicating film about a yuppie’s desire to conform to materialistic society as well as killing his way to succeed.

Cinematographer Andrezj Sekula does excellent work with the film’s cinematography to play into the sheen and slick look of some of the daytime interiors with some unique lighting and moods for some of the scenes set at night. Editor Andrew Marcus does brilliant work with the editing as it has elements of style in its usage of rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and humor. Production designer Gideon Ponte, with set decorator Jeanne Develle and art director Andrew M. Stearn, does amazing work with the look of the apartments as well as the look of the restaurants. Costume designer Isis Mussenden does fantastic work with the costumes from the designer suits that the men wear to some of the fashionable dresses of the women.

Key hairstylists Lucy M. Orton and John Quaglia do terrific work with the hairstyles of the women that was so common in the 80s to the very slick look of the men. Sound designer Benjamin Cheah and sound editor Jane Tattersall do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the clubs and some of the intimate sounds in some of the apartments. The film’s music by John Cale is wonderful for its mixture of orchestral bombast to play into the suspense as well as a mixture of somber piano pieces and some ambient cuts while music supervisors Barry Cole and Christopher Covert create an incredible soundtrack that feature a lot of the music from those times from acts like Huey Lewis & the News, Genesis, Phil Collins, New Order, Chris de Burgh, Simply Red, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Robert Palmer, Book of Love, Katrina and the Waves, Information Society, and M/A/R/R/S as well as additional music from Daniel Ash, David Bowie, the Cure, Eric B. & Rakim, and the Tom Club.

The casting by Kerry Barden, Billy Hopkins, and Suzanne Smith is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Reg E. Cathey as a homeless man, Anthony Lemke as a colleague that Allen mistakes him as Bateman, Krista Sutton as a prostitute named Sabrina, Guinevere Turner as a friend of Bateman in Elizabeth who would engage into a threesome with another hooker and Bateman, Bill Sage as a colleague of Bateman in David Van Patten, Josh Lucas as another colleague in the smarmy Craig McDermott, Justin Theroux as Bateman’s colleague Timothy Bryce who is having an affair with Bateman’s fiancée Evelyn, and Matt Ross as a colleague in Luis Carruthers who is dating Courtney as he also has a secret of his own. Samantha Mathis is fantastic as Bateman’s mistress Courtney Rawlinson whom he’s having an affair with as she is someone that has been doing too many drugs.

Reese Witherspoon is superb as Bateman’s fiancée Evelyn as a socialite who is eager to get married while having her time engaging an affair with Bryce. Cara Seymour is excellent as Christie as a prostitute who would meet with Bateman on two different occasions as she copes with what she had gotten herself into as well as her discovery in the second encounter. Jared Leto is brilliant as Paul Allen as top colleague of Bateman who is the envy of everyone in terms of the look of his card and being able to get things while confusing Bateman for someone else. Willem Dafoe is amazing as Detective Donald Kimball as a man who is investigating the disappearance of someone as he suspects Bateman through a couple of interrogations as well as be curious about what Bateman does.

Chloe Sevigny is remarkable as Jean as Bateman’s secretary who endures some of Bateman’s criticism over fashion choice as she is later invited to dinner with him where she provides a moment that is quite human as well as kind of understand the pressure Bateman is in to conform. Finally, there’s Christian Bale in a magnificent performance as Patrick Bateman as this man in his late 20s that is determined to be the embodiment of success as he also copes with his desire to kill as well to display everything he’s about as it’s a charismatic yet eerie performance from Bale that is definitely iconic as well as funny.

American Psycho is a phenomenal film from Mary Harron that features as spectacular performance from Christian Bale. Along with its ensemble cast, a killer soundtrack, dazzling visuals, witty satire, and complex themes of vanity, conformity, and identity. It’s a film that offers so much in the entertainment aspects but also serves as an intriguing character study of a man coming to grips with reality and his desires to succeed by any means necessary. In the end, American Psycho is a tremendous film from Mary Harron.

Related: (Less Than Zero) – (The Rules of Attraction)

Mary Harron Films: (I Shot Andy Warhol) – (The Notorious Bettie Page) – (The Moth Diaries) – (The Anna Nicole Story) – (Alias Grace)

© thevoid99 2017

1 comment:

Chris said...

Definitely a defining classic of our time. As you say, it’s entertaining while probing into that lifestyle. I’ve read the novel and Christian Bale nailed it. I remember a few people complained the movie was too tame compared to the book, but I’ve always liked Mary Harron's adaptation.
By the way, I recently watched a new, insightful video on the film. Worth a look: