American Psycho

AMERICAN PSYCHO. 2000

Director: Mary Harron

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



What intrigues me (though only slightly) is the number of feminist critics who initially trashed Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho as a failed satire on misogyny & itself profoundly misogynist. Yet it was a feminist dyke who liked it so much she wrote a script from it, spent a couple years peddling it around Hollywood, held on to the seat of her pants risking getting fired as director when she would not budge when producers demanded pissant boring Leonardo Decaprio star, & finally made the film she had seen in the book. (Mary Harron's other psycho film is the witty & strange I Shot Andy Warhol).

As a feminist myself I don't want to say the outraged women who tired to start a boycott of the novel when it was on the bestseller lists were butt-ass-stupid because they were feminist, but they certain were butt-ass-stupid about horror fiction. Feminist horror fans tended to like the book & were thrilled to learn a woman would be directing the film.

Irate critics weren't wrong about the misogyny, they'd just failed to realize that misogyny really is one of the great themes -- like war, holocaust, injustice -- & rightly of central importance to literature both visual & written, & hardly a theme writers & directors of either sex should ignore, or which women critics should hastily deplore without any interest in nuance.

It may well be the book seemed to have been written by a misogynist, whether or not it is fair to judge an author by the characters he creates. But the film more certainly had an effectively Dark Romanticist heart to it (in the way that Silence of the Lambs & Hannibal are said to be but aren't). And by Romanticist I do not mean romance novel, because Bateman is not a sexy character; by Romanticist I mean the literary sense of hyper-cynical, intensely felt, & elegantly presented. It's rare that a film is better than the book that inspired it, but this time, the film wins hands-down.

Christian Bale plays Bateman the perfect businesman of the 1980s, cold, calculating, handsome, snappy dresser, tasteful in everything he does. His one flaw is that he's a serial killer. It can be viewed as an intelligent & very black satire or it can be viewed as a mysogynist gore flick; the viewer will take from the film a little bit of whatever is in him or herself.

The fact is, Bateman despite his elegance & beauty is never for a moment a likeable figure unlike, say, the Anthonys Perkins as Norman Bates & Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. Bateman is appalling & there's no sense as in so many films that a man who kills women is sexy. Bateman comes off as a nutsack who hides his own fear & impotence behind expensive clothes or a butcher knife. To cast a sexy guy like Bateman in the role to show serial killers are repulsive was a daring gambit, & it works.
See also my review of
American Psycho 2

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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