American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)


American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron (2000).

Score: Entertaining as a film, underachieving as a book adaptation.

American Psycho tells the story of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a Wall Street yuppie who also turns out to be a serial killer. Patrick enjoys working out, going to expensive restaurants, renting porn movies and hiring and killing the occasional prostitute. After killing his coworker Paul Allen (Jared Leto) he starts getting visits from a detective named Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe) who is investigating Allen’s disappearance.

The first half stays quite faithful to the book, with dialogue directly lifted from it, and shows the decadence and emptiness in the lives of the rich, though it doesn’t manage the book’s hilariousness because it doesn’t get enough time to develop. The second half focuses on the murders and feels like a light thriller, forgetting the themes from the first half (and the book) and going straight for the gruesome details. It feels quite tame after fifteen years (or after having read the book, I don’t know which is right), though apparently it was quite controversial back in the day. I guess Breaking Bad has taught people that having a villain protagonist doesn’t mean you condone their actions or have to sympathize with them or anything.

As an adaptation of the book, it falls short in many fronts, most prominently giving too much importance to the murders. The way I read it, the book was a satire of rampant consumerism and greediness, an aspect of which were the murders, a reflection of Bateman’s disregard for human life. Movie!Bateman ***SPOILERS***is sick in the head and actually believes he murdered those people. Book!Bateman doesn’t believe he did any of it for one second. He’s a pathological liar and he’s trying to use the romantization of serial killers and psychopaths as an excuse for his being the heartless bastard he is. People still didn’t get it.***END SPOILERS***

So while it is entertaining to watch as a standalone work, the way I read the book, the movie is comically missing the point about many things, if not everything that happened in the novel. Still worth watching, even if it is only worth introducing you to the work of Bret Easton Ellis.

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