Sean Cordy’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sorry about the length in advance.
I watched this film a few years ago and thought, “I got it. He really isn’t Patrick Bateman. Big whoop.” I return to this and realize how little I knew. American Psycho is a masterpiece. It examines American society (specifically 80s Wall Street yuppies) in the most uproarious and horrific light possible. It’s dark and sardonic, but thoroughly entertaining. I shouldn’t be laughing at someone being killed or a related comment, but it absolutely slayed me. Bale is the highlight, but its overall craftsmanship and themes should be commended as much.
There are two BIG questions people ask about American Psycho
1. Did Patrick Bateman really exist?
2. Did Patrick Bateman or whoever Bateman “was” actually kill anyone?
It’s a resounding “YES” for both questions but the confusion shows that narrative worked. A narrative that attacks society’s materialist and capitalistic ambitions and goals.
All of the yuppies on Wall Street are working to be better than the guy to their left; Patrick Bateman first and foremost. His daily routine is rigorous, a routine designed to keep him in tip-top shape and get him that reservation at Dorcia. All of his “friends” are identical. There are slight (genetic) differences, but they all: act, look, dress, talk, eat, and laugh the same. When you’re the best, and everyone else is looking for that “look” as well, it becomes a world of robots.
People on the “outside” don’t recognize you. Bateman is called a different name numerous times without a second guess. This is why some people may say Bateman doesn’t exist (along with his amazing prologue). But all of his: “friends” except Paul Allen (who isn’t really even an associate), investigator, business cards, himself, and numerous others call him Bateman or Pat. The ending causes some confusion because his lawyer calls him a different name. Bateman says they talk on the phone often and he should recognize him. But when everyone else like the door man or people working in his office call him the wrong name, why can’t his infrequently seen lawyer do so as well? All of his clients are identical to Bateman, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that. His lawyer also states that he had dinner with (supposedly murdered) Paul Allen in London twice last week – causing question if Bateman killed Paul, if anyone at all.
Bateman did kill – everything he admitted to in the phone call was true. Just like his lawyer messed up on who Patrick was, he probably forgot who Paul Allen was (if he knew at all). He probably had dinner with Paul Fallon or someone with a similar name and forgot. Allen’s apartment was being cleaned and sold, and it’s implied that he was found in Hell’s Kitchen. This scene attacks people outside of Wall Street, the more common folk (the real estate agent). She asks Bateman to leave because she picks up on him knowing something about the bodies that she had to remove. She doesn’t want him to ruin a sale, and she doesn’t report anything to the police – all about the money. It’s a brilliant, yet subtle scene that really enhances the running messages.
On the surface, American Psycho refers to Bateman, a coldblooded psycho-killer. He’s completely psychotic but it’s society (the real American Psycho) that has created this symbolic figure. Bale plays him perfectly. He’s completely overboard with Bateman, but it’s exactly what is called for. His dialogue comes off slick and creates one of the most sardonic characters in film history. It’s a brilliant character study of a man that’s lost his identity that is only an image of Patrick Bateman, “an entity, an illusory”.
This is represented by the strong motif of mirrors. Bateman loos at mirrors quite often. Representing how infatuated Bateman is with his look. Society has become all about the shirt and tie clip you wear, and where you wear them to. But it’s also about the others around him. Patrick often tells people what to wear or what to be called. It also doubles as a social commentary/study because for as much focus as there is on Bateman, as much lays on the shoulders of his associates.
The dialogue is pitch perfect and sardonic, and enhanced by its great visual-audio style. Highlighting the film for most people is the music selection, and rightly so. It’s a great representative of the entire film.
- Huey Lewis and the News – “Hip to Be Square” represents the conformity in society and even examines Bateman (“…working out most every day, and watching what I eat.”) who doesn’t head the advice of the song (“Hip to be square”)
- Phil Collins – “Sussudio” looks at the outlook on life and how narcissistic society is (“…now she don’t even know my name. But I think she loves me just the same”).
- Whitney Houston - “Greatest Love of All” shows a little bit of Bateman’s motives (“I never found anyone who fulfills me needs.”). He can’t find a single love in his life, and replaces it with sex, material things, and heartless murder
Underneath the great soundtrack is an impeccable score that adds a great eerie and comical feel. There’s a stark feel to the film as well – an emptiness represented by Bateman’s white apartment. Everything is chic but worthless. Many associate white with pure, but in this case it is emptiness. Patrick’s whole identity is exterior to him, and his home (the exterior) represents his empty identity that relies on items to fill it up.
American Psycho is relatively unseen, and isn’t taken as seriously as it should. It’s a completely flabbergasting film that examines society in the 80s (and translates well to today) and uses a brilliant character to represent it all. It’s slick, sardonic, and sick but I love it.
Overall Grade: A+
Now excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.