Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hip To Be Square

"I have to go return some video tapes."
- Patrick Bateman
American Psycho

Back in the summer of 1991, many of you will remember the brouhaha kicked up by Bret Easton Ellis' novel American Psycho. It's in my canon. In a sentence, the novel was about a Wall Street yuppie obsessed with serial killers, pornographic sex, and Gianni Versace. In a sentence, the brouhaha was about how most people in America didn't get it. They were repulsed by its misogynistic themes and extreme violence, and the novel's detractors vilified Ellis himself as misogynistic and extremely violent.

But here's the thing: I got it. I can't honestly say I figured out, almost 10 years before everyone else, that the novel was satirizing to the extreme the conspicuous consumption and me-first mentality of the yuppie species. But I did believe, back then, that most of its critics - ranging from the liberal lefty feminazis to the right wing moralists - would have found something to agree on with Ellis if they'd only read the book.

Fast forward ten years and an art house satirist (Mary Harron) and a Sarah Lawrence lesbian (Guinevere Turner) joined forces to commit Ellis's once-despised book to film. And thanks to them, everyone got it.

Here's my favorite scene from the movie. Patrick Bateman, the American Psycho, shows off his business card to his so-called friends, only to become bottom man in a game of oneupsmanship. Hilarious.

Following that scene, if I remember correctly, Bateman eviscerates a homeless dude.

And here's the climactic scene that clearly reveals the story's satirical DNA. Perhaps not verbatim, but it mimics perfectly Ellis's juxtaposition of dorkiness, style, and brutality. I hesitate to call it brilliant, but its pretty neat to behold.

And here's the introductory sequence, a meaningless and shallow internal monologue.

When Harron talked about her film in the commentary of the DVD I watched last night, she referred to the triumph of "surface" over "depth". I loved that. But here's my conclusion: there's no need for you to read the book or see the movie after reading this. What I've written here is all you need to know about American Psycho.


Anonymous said...

Incredible post. Always loved the movie, and felt as if people didn't get it a lot of the time.

I still need to read the novel, as i'd heard it's not as watered down as the movie.

Ben said...


Thanks for dropping by. I visited your blog and it is outstanding. I'm sure I'll read it page after page, as I can tell your tastes resonate. I'll link it in my list of Blogs I'll Cocktail With.

I was getting a bit self conscious about this entry about American Psycho because it is so ... appalling.