February 4, 2009

American Psycho, part 1

In honor of Christian Bale's recorded, on-set meltdown, I hereby resubmit the recap I did of American Psycho a couple of years ago (April, May 2006). This is part one. Depending on the response I get, I may also repost the remaining seven parts (good lord I had more free time those days). First, my two cents about the recorded hissy fit -- hey, Christian, it's only a freakin' Terminator sequel!! And now, on to part one...

First of all, a couple of observations about the novel:

  • On page 39, the following bit of dialogue occurs:

    "Bateman, you are some kind of morose bastard," Preston says. "You should stop reading all those Ted Bundy biographies." Preston stands up and checks his Rolex. "Listen men, I'm off. Will see you tomorrow."

    "Yeah. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel," Van Patten says, nudging me.

    Bateman. Batman. Bate-man, Bat-man. Interesting in hindsight, no? And I'm surely not the first person to notice that.

  • The author of the novel, Bret Easton Ellis (a talented writer with an eye for amazing detail, I really enjoyed Less Than Zero), no doubt wrote American Psycho after seeing Less Than Zero made into a film. I'd bet he assumed American Psycho would also be depicted on screen. This could explain why Tom Cruise appears on pages 71 and 72 due to the fact, in the novel, he lives in the penthouse of Patrick's building. In the movie, Patrick claims he lives, "in the American Gardens building on West 81st." Tom Cruise once lived there. The makers of the film originally envisioned Tom playing the role of Patrick. Bateman and Cruise share an elevator ride, and they have a brief conversation during which Cruise has to repeatedly correct Bateman about the title of his film Cocktail (Patrick continues to call "Bartender"). It's an interesting blurring of reality. I wonder if Ellis envisioned at least a cameo by Cruise, playing himself, in the scene.

  • The chapter titled "Genesis," in which Ellis, as Bateman, details the artistic and creative growth of the progressive rock band Genesis from the time of Peter Gabriel's exit up to its 1986 album Invisible Touch is really cool. That's all that the chapter is. Just a lecture on Genesis. Nothing having to do with the plot occurs.

    There are also chapters of a similar nature titled "Whitney Houston" and "Huey Lewis and the News." As Bateman's sanity continues on its slippery, downward slope, he clings increasingly to meaningless minutiae and trivia

  • By the end of the book, you actually feel a little bit sorry for Patrick Bateman. There is even the possibility that a lot of the truly detestable acts he commits occur only in his own mind.

  • Chapter one, "April Fool's," begins with the following, all in caps: ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE

    The last chapter, "At Harry's," ends with: THIS IS NOT AN EXIT

    American Psycho

    I find this a bit ironic (the fact such a misogynistic novel and story was adapted for the screen by two women). It's like Lifetime Television showing The Silence of the Lambs.

    "Stoli, on the rocks!!" (shouting)

    "These aren't good anymore! It's a cash bar!!" (also shouting)

    ...I say staring at her, quite clearly but muffled by "Pump Up the Volume" and the crowd, "You are a fucking ugly bitch I want to stab to death and play around with your blood," but I'm smiling. (page 59)

    And again, I see irony in women being in complete creative control of a movie where the main character is a viscous misogynist.

    (Narration): "I live in the American Garments Building

    on West 81st Street

    on the 11th floor.

    My name if Patrick Bateman. I'm 27 years old.

    I believe in taking care of myself with a balanced diet and a vigorous exercise routine. In the morning, if my face is a ittle puffy, I'll put on an ice pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a 1,000 now.

    After I remove the ice pack, I use a deep pore cleanser lotion.

    There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of an abstraction. 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 sense our lifestyles are fairly comparable...

    ...I simply am not there."

    I'm walking on sunshine (whoa oh)
    I'm walking on sunshine (whoa oh)

    And don't it feel good, hey, all right now, and don't it feel good, hey, yeah!

    (Narration): "I'm trying to listen to the new Robert Palmer tape, but Evelyn, my supposed fiance, keeps buzzing in my ear."

    (Narration): "I'm on the verge of tears by the time we arrive at Pastels since I'm positive we won't get seated but the table is good, and relief that is almost tidal in scope washes over me in an awesome wave." (page 39)

    (Narration): "...as I set the platter down I catch a glimpse of my reflection on the surface of the table. My skin seems darker because of the candlelight and I notice how good the haircut I got at Gio's last Wednesday looks." (page 12)

    "We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values and curb graphic sex and violence on TV, in movies, in popular music, everywhere. Most importantly we have to promote general social concern and less materialism in young people." (page 16)

    Classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    The next morning...

    The husband holds the two sheets he's taken out of the bag in front of him, both splattered with dried blood, and stares at them dumbly.

    "Bleach-ee?" I ask her. "Are you trying to say bleach-ee?" I shake my head, disbelieving. "Bleach-ee? Oh my god."

    "Two things," I say, talking over her. "One. You can't bleach a Soprani. Out of the question. Two"--and then louder, still over her--"two, I can only get these sheets in Santa Fe. These are very expensive sheets and I really need them clean..."

    (page 82)

    The boy next door plans his evening while enjoying the latest in a series of video rentals, usually the vilest, most degrading hard-core porn available to man.

    What, only two hours?

    In episode two, Patrick gets really angry over an associate's fancy business card.


    me said...


    Anonymous said...

    Some comments on your comments:

    I remember reading that Brett Easton Ellis met Tom Cruise and based the character of Patrick Bateman partly on him. I figure he put Tom in the book as an inside joke. It's probably also as part his trademark reality blurring that he loves doing so much.

    As far as women making the movie version; it's not really ironic at all when you realize that the movie is actually a scathing critique of the dark side of the male psyche.
    Conservatism, mysogyny, homophobia and its counterpart metrosexuality, men's clubs, porn, guy talk, business, action and horror films (basically all the kinds of topics that men's interest magazines like Maxim, GQ, and Playboy are full of) are satirized in the book and the movie. It actually makes perfect sense that the movie was written and directed by women.

    A little FYI triva: Guinevere Turner who co-wrote the screenplay, plays the part of the red-headed society party girl/victim in the movie. She has a cameo in Chasing Amy (she is, in real life, an "out" lesbian) playing the emcee at a concert. And she wrote the screenplay to "Bloodrayne" if you can imagine that. (It also turns out that the "Bloodrayne" star Kristina Loken is gay - go figure) "American Psycho" director Mary Harron (not gay BTW) and Guinevere have just released their latest film collaboration "Notorious: The Bettie Page Story" It should be one to watch.

    Like your page

    Anonymous said...

    My sister told me I should watch this, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. My wife doesn't want to be in town, much less at home if I watch it.

    Chris said...

    Retro Hound-

    It's worth a viewing, not great, but Bale is really good in it. I'd read the book, being a fan of Bret Easton Ellis, so that was my initial motivation.

    LOL at your wife wanting to be out of house and town if and when you check it out.