Friday, March 06, 2009

American Psycho - A Movie Club Column

Well now that Christian Bale’s reputation seems to have survived his recent on set meltdown, it is time for a Movie Club column. Today we present Part II of our Bale movie series – American Psycho. It took me some time to write today's column, because after several trips to Blockbuster to rent this movie, I left with a different movie instead, because the only copy was always rented out… apparently by the same person! At one point, I asked the Blockbuster counterperson/resident film expert if this person believed in returning videos. Ironically, the main character in this movie – Patrick Bateman uses the concept of returning videos as his alibi for everything… including Murder!!

Here is a clip of the trailer…

It's tough to write a spoiler free column about this movie, but since it is about 9 years old, I am sure I won’t be giving away too much by revealing certain plot aspects. This is the Bateman portion of the Bateman to Batman trip through Bale’s career, and I think this movie cements his reputation as being the rare combination of a great actor AND a movie star… Unfortunately… there have been a lot of great actors who have not become stars.

The plot revolves about Bateman, a Wall Street rich boy who has been handed a silver spoon and a cushy six figure job although his mornings seem to consist of finding lunch reservations and his afternoons are spent finding dinner reservations – all of these at very expensive hoity toity restaurants. The shallowness of his dial-a-restaurant existence is not lost on Bateman. He admits he is a man devoid of emotion except for greed and disgust.

In the movie (and the book the movie is based on) Bateman “kills” a number of people… but I put that in quotes because despite numerous debates I have seen on this topic…. I don’t think he really “kills” all these people… I think its all part of a fantasy life he lives in his vivid imagination.

The first time I watched this movie… several months ago before I decided to write about it for NWOW, I spent most of the movie thinking he was to paraphrase Larry David and Mel Brooks, f'ing n-v-t-s. But when I watched it the 2nd time, I started looking at this as more of a dark comedy. My logic which some may disagree with, is based on a comment made by another character about seeing one of Bateman’s victims “alive”… although the argument could be made that within the context of the storyline, that person was really not seen alive. Incidentally, the American Psycho book is nowhere near as subtle, it is very clear that Bateman is a mass murderer.

The first time I saw this I was mortified… the 2nd time more amused, and I started to take notice of the incredible shallowness of these characters. These rich 1980’s Reagan-era Wall Street young hot shots sit around showing off their hoity toity business cards as if the quality of the ink and paper they are printed on are their status symbol mid life crisis convertibles. Bateman at one time tries to pick up a little money hungry lolita and when asked about his career, slips it in that he is into "murders and executions"; the woman's reply indicates that in her half listening state she thought he said the more common "mergers and acquisitions".

Bateman’s arrogance is breathtakingly incredible. He has a fiance who strangely wants to marry him while he carries on an affair with the mentally ill girlfriend of a guy named Louis whose beard is not necessarily on his face, and carries a little man crush for the muscular Bateman. Bateman runs into a hungry homeless guy in an alley and instead of tossing him a few bucks or a doggie bag,.. plunges his unused kitchen cutlery knife right into the poor shlub’s chest. . He later has dinner with a shallow colleague who never seems to be get Bateman’s name right… the two subsequently end up at Bateman’s apartment where he meets a bloody demise. Or does he?

When it comes to murders…. this movie sure knows how to make them look stylish. In the pre Ipod 1980’s, the rich people were discovering the evolving technology of cd’s… back in the early days when they were sold in bulky large packaging, I guess so they could fit into the old record bins at Sam Goody’s and all the other now defunct record stores. I remember a party on Long Island in the mid 1980s, these people were so rich that despite the fact that the house had an indoor pool, soda fountain, and futuristic computerized security system, what impressed me most was their incredibly large collection of these newfangled compact disks!!

When Bateman invites Paul Allen over to his ritzy Manhattan apartment that fateful night, he pops in a Huey Lewis CD, and goes into a Casey Kasem-esque monologue that actually provides a historical perspective behind the music selection being played. That is followed by Bateman attacking the poor guy, and then taking steps to cover up the crime. Later scenes will make you cringe the first time and chuckle during the 2nd viewing when he invites hookers and a co worker to his home and launches into Kasem-esque monologues about Phil Collins and Whitney Houston.

In one scene, Bateman is trying to squeeze a corpse filled bag into the trunk of a cab… only to have a shallow pal stroll by and remark about the expensiveness of the designer bag. Willem DeFoe portrays Detective Donald Kimball, whose investigation goes according to Bateman’s schedule… such as Bateman’s need to take his time pondering his alibi for the night of Allen’s disappearance… Bateman later agrees to meet the detective for a lunch date, at his convenience to discuss that aforementioned alibi. His total manipulation of the detective’s crime solving schedule, is the first big sign that these so called murders may not have really happened. Even the "Peace of Chaleef" on Soap was more efficient than this cop! Bateman also has a tendency to use the term “returning videotapes” as an alibi for murder... and also as an excuse to cancel plans with his long suffering fiancé.

There are also some amusing scenes involving hookers who Bateman hires to act out his sexual fantasies. But not before more cringing lengthy music monologues, a Hitchcock-esque story telling device which evokes dread like the Jaws shark music… you know that something bad is going to happen. He also spends a lot of time looking in the mirror flexing while he engages in his 3-somes… those scenes by the way are more graphic on the DVD since it was cut out of the theatrical (and HBO) versions in order to get an R rating. And it really makes you wonder what hookers think of their crazy clients and all their strange requests. One hooker bolts out of the apartment when she realizes she is dealing with a freak... who chases her through the hallways butt naked!… I won’t spoil the outcome when Bateman tries to play javelin with a chainsaw.

Ultimately, Bateman is a bored guy… and it’s a testament to Bale’s excellent acting skills…(and very good American accent – unlike Pierce Brosnan in Mama Mia which we just saw for the umpteenth time) that he is able to create such a fascinating yet boring character. Bateman and his colleagues sit around all day really doing nothing… but while Seinfeld characters hang out doing nothing in a diner.. these characters just make plans to dine out.. but would never get caught in a diner.. or any place a regular person like myself would go to.… It’s incredible that a guy who eats all his meals at restaurants would actually have a knife set… or any food in his fridge… although a peek inside his fridge elicits memories of 1980’s mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Which actually raises the point of those who will disagree with me… If Dahmer could get away with killing so many… why not Bateman? But whatever the case may be, even though the movie is quite violent, Bale delivers yet again proving that he is truly one of our finest young actors in the 21st century.

Here is Ebert's TV Review

On a scale of 1 to 4 bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom… American Psycho gets 3 bladders.

Next Movie: "The Prestige"


In our last column we ran Pumpstradamus's version of "Do a Dish".. a video I appeared in more than 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the original had been taken down from You Tube, but has been put back, so now you can see the original and the remake!

Here is the classic original...

And the remake with Pumpstradamus!

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