American Psycho directed by Mary Herron and starring Christian Bale is an American black comedy film which debuted in 2000 and is based on the best-selling novel of the same name written by Bret Easton Ellis. My plan for the movie review of American Psycho was to unpack the film and it’s puzzling ending using a few ideas within the novel, however I’ve lost my copy, forcing me to solely rely on the film (Dammit!). There’s been debate to meaning of the film and it’s ending and after watching it scene by scene a few times, I’ve come to the conclusion, that the ending to one of my favorite films, is quite possibly about the nada y nothingness which plagued Patrick Bateman from the very beginning. Plot & Review Below!
The film follows astonishingly handsome and successful Patrick Bateman, an investment banker on Wall Street in New York City in the 1980’s during the Wall Street Boom where everyone went flocking to wall street with buzzing dollar signs floating around their head and the shared dream to become rich and important. The capitalistic consumption which spawned in the 1950’s and thrived in the 1980’s manipulated society, placing a vast, unhealthy value on material items. Living in an expensive city like New York and working on Wall Street amongst other competitive, money-hungry, male executives further enhances the misplaced importance of possessions upon Patrick Bateman and results in his psychotic breakdown. The expectations of success start to unravel his mental state, the days bleed into the next, everything becomes more meaningless than before, and eventually Bateman snaps and descends into madness.
REVIEW & SUMMARY
Watching the film, we can see there is a consistent routine to Patrick Bateman’s activities, one dedicated to his appetites. In a careful, compulsive manner, he awakens each morning and completes each task methodically from expensive face masks to rigorous workouts in an effort to maintain his handsome and structured, elegant appearance before work. In a voiceover, Christian Bale relays his meticulous routine, step by step. Each night, he joins his co-workers at a variety of expensive restaurants and nightclubs where they spend an outrageous amount of money on food, women, and blow. Their conversation drips of privileged nonsense and highly competitive comparisons. Everything Bateman and his co-workers do is with the intention of fabricating a sense of nonexistent importance for themselves. They share and compare their lavish business cards, holding it up like it represents their real self. They express frustration of not winning accounts such as the ambiguous Fisher account which Bateman’s rival, Paul Allen (Jared Leto), has secured. And, they have an unending need to climb up the ladder to the most important executive positions in vain attempts to not be unknown and disappear into oblivion.
When Bateman is not working and measuring the thickness of his business cards, as if it held the secrets to the universe and his manhood, he hides under his slipping mask of sanity by chasing a fleeting high through sex and cocaine within the confines of cultural norms of the 80’s. Ultimately, Bateman realizes he, like his co-workers, is chasing hollow ambitions. He realizes he’s no longer satisfied by these worldly and materialistic desires, leading him to quench his thirst through darker urges. These urges are created by a society that repeatedly yells, “You need more, more, more” and these daily, compulsive routines become too easy, too monotonous, and overall meaningless for the wealthy, successful Patrick Bateman.
Patrick Bateman’s bloodlust is born the same night he and his co-workers compare their business cards. His pride plummets when his friend Bryce prefers another co-worker’s card and it further plummets when they see Paul Allen’s card, an automatically superior card. Bateman’s entire world and self-worth collapses by one masterpiece of a business card, leading him to mock a homeless man he finds in an alley and repeatedly stab him, birthing a lust for blood. After a party one evening, Patrick Bateman goes out with his rival Paul Allen who not only consistently mistakes him for Marcus Halberstram, another Wall Street robot dressed completely identical to Bateman, but patronizes and belittles Patrick Bateman calling him a loser and a dork. Feeling degraded and just as meaningless as the materials he constantly seeks, Patrick Bateman satisfies his frustrations and urges by murdering Paul Allen brutally with an axe in the famous “Hip to Be Square” scene before going on a continual cycle of murders and spiraling down the path of insanity.
CONCLUSION – What does it all mean, O’ Wise One?
Similar to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, the film brilliantly illuminates a brief psychotic episode caused by the meaningless path towards perfection dictated by the environment the individual is in. For Nina in Black Swan it was the appearance of artistic perfection in ballet and for Patrick Bateman in American Psycho it is the appearance of importance and exorbitant wealth on Wall Street. The end of the movie shows the audience none of it turned out to be real, or maybe it was, however we’re still inclined to figure out the delusional murder spree of the character. The fictitious violence Bateman participated in presented a lens into his internal frustrations of his world of wealth and success his preferable mode of expression to those frustrations. Throughout the film we see an artificial version of himself created for work and social encounters but it is only a mask, one the character fears, “is about to slip.” The mask that wears Valentino suits and Oliver People’s glasses and eats at restaurants like Dorsia. There is a moment within the film where Bateman knows, possibly subconsciously, he is chasing nothing but the wind in meaningless materials, in meaningless relationships, in a meaningless world. And, this foggy, cluttered clarity ultimately unfolds the American Psycho in a capitalistic country.