American Psycho (2000)
Directed by Mary Harron
Cast: Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Justin Theroux, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas
There are two reasons I love American Psycho: 1. Batman murders people with an ax while listening to Huey Lewis & the News; 2. it was directed by a woman.
Let me start with the second reason first. Mary Harron is a television director who has intermittently made feature films. Her IMDb page isn’t outstanding, though she’s had a nice career. And from out of nowhere she made one of the best dark comedies of all time. There’s still a pretty large glass ceiling in Hollywood; it took until 2010 for a female director to win an Academy Award. Yet way back in 2000, Harron got the green-light to make an extremely violent farce about a sociopath who beats prostitutes and kills people as a hobby. Even now, there’s a slim chance a studio would let a woman direct such a film.
Though I can’t know this for sure, I absolutely believe American Psycho turned out so well because Harron was able to add a female perspective to an extremely misogynistic movie, which is pretty satirical in itself. Take Reese Witherspoon’s character, for example. She plays Evelyn, Batman’s fiancée. He’s a complete ass to her throughout the film and even drops the occasional hint that he could, like, you know, be a homicidal maniac. She is totally oblivious. The idea of this character could have easily been misconstrued, but Harron was able to clearly use Evelyn as a bright, flashing sign saying “This is the kind of woman that holds the rest of us back.”
Harron also excels at highlighting the slimy, despicable side of guys, which pushes closer to fact than satire. The lounge scene with Batman and his coworkers talking about how they refer dumb, pretty women causes a dangerous level of eye-rolling, an effect achieved because Harron is trying blatantly throwing the “man” part of humanity right into the audience’s face. Usually the phrase “a woman’s touch” implies something soft and sensitive. Harron’s touch comes fast and with a closed fist.
My first, more obvious reason for liking this movie is because it’s fucking awesome. Christian Bale, in a role that really put him on the map as an adult actor, plays Patrick Batman, a trust-fund baby who holds the empty title of Vice President in his daddy’s Wall Street company. Oh, he’s also a crazy, bloodthirsty crazy person. The opening sequence of the film with Bale’s monologue is a train wreck – it’s terrifying, but you can’t look away. And that pretty much sums up the rest of the film.
Aside from Batman killing a dog (sadface), American Psycho is hilariously depraved. All the characters are so elf-centered they don’t notice that they’re friend Patrick exhibits tell-tale signs of a serial killer, like when he drags a body into a taxi or tries to strangle his gay friend in a public bathroom. The movie is filled with memorable scenes, the most famous of which details a damn business card. Personally, I like the one when Batman runs down a hall naked and drops a chainsaw on a hooker.
I’ve watched this film with an array of people, from friends and family to die-hard fans at a midnight showing. Everyone has a different reaction. Those who don’t understand the humor think it’s a violent, absurd film with a confusing ending. Those who do get the humor love the absurdity and think the ending is a cherry on top of a very bloody sundae.
Once you get past the blood and the hatred of humanity, American Pyscho is a really strong commentary on moral values, or the lack thereof, in society. While the novel on which the film is based was set during the cocaine-induced haze of the 1980’s, the ideas still hold true today. Plus, you get to see Christian Bale try to stuff a cat into an ATM. This film is truly a masterpiece.