Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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American Psycho

Film #186

THE PLOT

A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies.

Year 1, Day 183

BEFORE: I can almost see the end of the year as American Psycho makes it’s way into the “Now Playing” list. This is, if I’m not mistaken, the first NC-17 film of the marathon. Midnight Cowboy did have an X-rating initially, but that rating is both more lenient than NC-17, nonexistent today, and the film’s rating was changed to an R in 1971 with no edits required. But this could all be moot because I’m not sure if I even have the NC-17 version; I could have the edited R version. I guess I must watch to find out.

AFTER: I seem to be getting something completely different out of American Psycho than what the critics got out of. First off, I didn’t really like the film. But I’m curious now if that’s just me missing the point (in which case the film still fails but it’s understandable why others like it) or if it’s just bad. As always, I defer to my favorite critic, Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and said…

The function of the murders is to make visible the frenzy of the territorial male when his will is frustrated. The movie gives shape and form to road rage, golf course rage, family abuse and some of the scarier behavior patterns of sports fans.

In other words, the film is supposed to be a satire, like the novel it was based on, where Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is subject to, “… the usual male drives and compulsions. He just acts out a little more,” (quote also from Ebert’s review). Most of the praise for the film comes from this satirical viewpoint of how the director, Mary Harron, does a beautiful job at showing the pain people (men specifically) feel and what toll that takes on them.

What I saw in American Psycho was just that, a psychotic Bateman who found joy in killing many people. The critics and I agree on one thing and that is Christian Bale’s acting giving a creepy and frightening performance as the serial killer. But this performance is also where I think the confusion comes in for me. For most of the film I just found Bateman to be acting stupidly. Not being crazy and psychotic, but in a fake way that did not seem to fit the situations and his character. Mostly the way he talked, it just sounded so unreal and false that it just made confused as to who this character is. Throw in the equally confusing office scenes with Bateman’s fellow co-workers and there are many times throughout the film where I’m wondering, “Where does the psycho, serial killer aspect come in to play?”

There were just two sections of the film where I saw this and for these parts, Christian Bale really did a brilliant job. The scenes in question are his murder of Paul Allen (Jared Leto) early on in the film and then Bateman’s breakdown and “confession” at the end of the film. For me, these two scenes are what the entire film is about. Not a satirical take on male drives but a look into a psychotic person’s mind. And the emotion and inner-conflict you can see in Bateman’s eyes and expressive gestures is quite powerful in such a way that you almost see where this character is coming from.

The great thing about opinions and film criticism is that they are different for every person. I did not get the intended purpose of American Psycho and consequently found most of the acting and events to not fit in with the tone of the film, most of the times feeling fake. There were two points where I saw brilliance, a terrific job on all levels, and it made the film more than just bearable to watch. But just because I don’t get or like the film doesn’t mean that you will. You could find American Psycho to be a great piece of satire with all the acting being wonderful, not just certain parts. My only recommendation to you is, don’t let a young child watch this with you.

RATING: 3 out of 5