AMERICAN PSYCHO

There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable… I simply am not there.

The blandness of upper middle class life as a Wall Street finance bro sure is tough. Attending  inane lunches day after day, eating at restaurants where the food doesn’t matter at all, speaking to people who have no discernible personality traits beyond their job qualities. It’s an endless, monotone cycle that grinds you down. Thank god you’re not poor, though. Then things would truly be rough. 

Instead, you cajole with people who never remember your name and define themselves by their business cards. Because the name isn’t important Your appearance is everything. 

That’s at least the POV of Patrick Bateman, the protagonist at the heart of Herron’s movie AMERICAN PSYCHO. 

A man who takes more care of his skin than he does to any relationship in his life, particularly the one with himself. Why be present with another human being when you can instead focus on yourself? Who needs anything more? 

At the core of the film there’s a searing indictment about the narcissism and milquetoast personalities of Middle Class America. The powerbrokers of high society, the suits that run the country, are empty husks of people with no culture or identity. Social interactions are transactions. The conversations have no soul because they aren’t meant for connection but are for extracting value from the partner. 

Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, American Psycho // credit: Huffington Post

The defining scene for this is the group date at… I don’t know, all the restaurants seemed the same to me, but the date when Patrick Narrator informs us that he is cheating on his fiancee just as she is cheating on him. That one. 

The conversation drifts over to politics and Justin Theroux deflects the conversation from the uncomfortable domestic issues to Sri Lanka. Christian Bale then swats him down by spewing a laundry list of platitudes about world hunger and equality for all. It’s all bullshit and means nothing. The words aren’t supposed to mean anything. It’s all for the show of conscientiousness to your peers rather than saying something of true substance. 

It’s enough to make anyone’s mask of sanity slip. Yet alone a mentally ill psychopath like Patrick Bateman/Hugh/Dennis/whomever. 

The film does great at exposing the male insecurities of their value. The less important they feel at work, the harder they work to appear important. Simultaneously, the more they fantasize about situations in which they hold power. 

Mary Harron wisely treats Patrick’s fantasies less as masucline fever dreams and more as the deranged, insecure tantrums they represent. This film in the hands of a man may well take a different view of those gruesome murders. In her adept hands, Harron brilliantly digs deep into the psychology of wall street finance bros and the vapid, toothless lives they lead.

These are all things I can appreciate about the film. And I wasn’t entertained or gripped while watching it. This is not an indictment of the movie, rather, it is indicative of the viewer. Perhaps I wasn’t in the state of mind for it, or perhaps I focused more on peeling back the parfait layers than enjoying the story for what it was.  

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