Shocking, bloody, upbeat, vulgar, disturbing, outrageously 80s, misogynistic, and aspirational?? Too many adjectives could describe the story of the American Psycho. With rumblings of a remake, we take a moment to remember the performance of Christian Bale as the psychotic Patrick Bateman and recognize the instant cult classic film set in the 1980s from 2000.
Originated as a novel in 1991 by Bret Easton Ellis, the idea of a rich Manhattan businessman that took too much pleasure in his own violent vices. Written mostly as a drafted story, all of the explicit scenes of violence did not come until the book was almost finished. Ellis spent a lot of time researching gruesome murders at the New York Public Library to help paint a the violent picture.
“[Bateman] was crazy the same way [I was]. He did not come out of me sitting down and wanting to write a grand sweeping indictment of yuppie culture. It initiated because my own isolation and alienation at a point in my life. I was living like Patrick Bateman. I was slipping into a consumerist kind of void that was supposed to give me confidence and make me feel good about myself but just made me feel worse and worse and worse about myself. That is where the tension of “American Psycho” came from. It wasn’t that I was going to make up this serial killer on Wall Street. High concept. Fantastic. It came from a much more personal place, and that’s something that I’ve only been admitting in the last year or so. I was so on the defensive because of the reaction to that book that I wasn’t able to talk about it on that level.” -Bret Easton Ellis
Ellis has taken any stereotype of a killer, and reinvented fear using the American dream. Obsessed with beauty and youth, armed with an iced sleeping mask, tanning bed, chainsaw, designer suits, and love of pop music, the character of Patrick Bateman surely redefines what’s expected from a Sociopath.
We know Christian Bale can pull of any role, but to see the bad boy pull off the over tanned, and toned yuppie American style of Patrick Bateman is a real treat. His American accent, which could be one of the faults to this film, becomes an endearing quality, adding to the overall over-the-top-ness of the whole damn movie!
The aesthetic of this film is one of the major reasons why people keep talking about “American Psycho”. Since it’s set in the 1980s, many elements come into play. With productuon design by Gideon Ponte and Jeanne Develle as the set decorator, every scene is as blatantly expensive and 80’s-tastic as the last. We get a clear sense of the O.C.D. nature of Patrick Bateman in the first glance of the film, with a panning shot of his sterile trendy living room.
Style resonates from every scene of this movie, whether it be Bale in a blood soaked plastic raincoat, or Bale getting a migraine from the mundane in a chic suit. We hope people aren’t reading this and fantasizing about what they could do to a prostitute with a chainsaw, but taking notice of the fashion. While this guy was becoming blood hungry and more and more unhinged, people around him were taking note on how great he looked in designer duds.
We can find the American Psycho style on runways all over the world today. Maybe in the form of some splattered blood on a chest, or an executioners mask wearing model in leather, you could pin the influence to many historical figures or idea’s, but we see Patrick Bateman.
The film got the sequel treatment in 2002, in American psycho 2, starring no other than the Black Swan herself, Mila Kunis. And in 2008, development of a broadway musical based on the novel and film began. Duncan Sheik, a Tony and Grammy Award-winner for the Broadway smash Spring Awakening, is partway through writing the music and lyrics for American Psycho: The Musical, while playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is in the midst of penning the book.
So can crazy be sexy? Or the biggest turn off? Maybe it’s just Christian Bale, or all the nude shower scenes, but we are turned on.
Su Su Sudio,
-The Eye xx
Love the post. I think the book and the film was a wonderful commentary on the Wall Street Yuppie culture that had arisen in the 80s and 90s. No wonder it still echoes, for example in fashion.