20150731: Drama Review--American Psycho

American Psycho
image courtesy of The Movie Database
  1. Fundamentals.
    1. Title: American Psycho
    2. IMDb: Users rated this 7.6/10 (312,703 votes)
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:
      67% of critics liked it of 142 critical reviews posted
      85% of viewers liked it from 300,623 ratings
      Critics Consensus: If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.

    4. Status: Released
    5. Release date: 2000-04-14
    6. Production Companies: Lions Gate
    7. Tagline: I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.

    8. Budget:  7 million USD
    9. Revenue: 34 million USD
    10. Runtime: 102 minutes.
    11. Genres: Crime, Drama

    12. Directed by: Mary Harron.  Written by: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner

    13. Starring: Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, Reese Witherspoon as Evelyn Williams, Justin Theroux as Timothy Bryce, Josh Lucas as Craig McDermott, Bill Sage as David Van Patten, Chloƫ Sevigny as Jean, Samantha Mathis as Courtney Rawlinson, Matt Ross as Luis Carruthers, Jared Leto as Paul Allen, Willem Dafoe as Det. Donald Kimball

    14. TMDb overview: A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies.

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. Patrick is the protagonist, Evelyn his fiancee, and Jean his secretary.  His drinking buddies are Timothy, Craig, and David.  Luis ('the dufus') and Courtney are seen together in public, but Patrick is having an affair with her, unknown to Luis.

    2. Patrick is in the banking sector in New York City. He obtained his position in Mergers and Acquisitions via nepotism.

    3. So, Patrick has a job, male friends/competitors, and female bedmates. The only flaw in this picture of overabundance, privilege, and recreational drug use is that Patrick is insane. Patrick keeps his homicidal urges fairly well under control toward the beginning of the film, but less and less and the film progresses.

    4. The exposition style is what I call archipelago. The movie consists of islands of film taped together. There is no mainland; there are no bridges. There are only discrete pieces separated by whim and held in place by time order. Sort of.

    5. Vignettes (islands), humourous: The touchstones where Patrick notices (to the audience) how much he and Paul Allen are alike.  The passages about one upmanship, be it business cards or restaurant reservations.  Patrick trying and failing to give a homeless man some help.

    6. Vignettes, horrifying:  The Paul Allen goodbye sequence strained credulity too much. The Ed Gein story was a bit of a shock, even in contrast to the unyielding misogyny just preceding it.  There are many more.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Great visuals undone by script and direction as well as inconsistent sound capture and editing.

    2. Shorter summary: Exercise in self-delusion.

    3. Five of ten

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Each scene is well thought out, and the shooting is wonderfully executed.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The scenes with musical accompaniment are lush and rich; they have a feeling of depth.  Some of the quiet scenes involving only conversation are tinny, weak, thin, and disappointing.

    3. Acting: 2/10 There were some fine actors in this motion picture.  All of them seemed to be doing what the director wanted. Bravo for their professionalism.  However, the director's vision was so worthless that the performances were of little note.  This is strongly parallel to some of the weaker Wes Anderson films, where the efforts of good actors were thrown away by the poor direction.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The protagonist talks directly to the viewer.  This is bovine scatology. The entire film is about a delusional protagonist, so nothing is to be trusted in the plotlines, such as they are.  Just because some action is depicted on the screen does not mean that it happened outside the sour operations of this afflicted mind.  One might as well be suffering through Walter Mitty, except that the lead has bloody fantasies instead of Mitty's pleasant ones.

      So, since nothing of the exposition is to be trusted, what is the point of this vile mess?

      As one navigates through this maze of false threads, that is the central question. The hideous ending casts everything even deeper in doubt. The film is reminiscent of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) which was heaped with praise since Terry Gilliam directed it. That does not change the fact that after watching the film, one wonders whether Depp's character did any of the actions shown on screen. In American Psycho, the disappointment was much stronger because the production values were so much higher. Whereas FLiLV looked sleazy, AP looked exquisite; interspersed with the shock segments, that is.  I expected some sort of value for having suffered through the recurring horrific images, the type one expects from a slasher film or a mild gorefest, but done by someone like Hitchcock.

      If American Psycho is considered as a collage, bits of the film were good for witty conversation or for commentary on the 1980s and the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent. The collage as a whole, though, is just an incoherent collection of high quality materials badly assembled.

      The last two minutes were almost interesting, but the rest of the film did not support the message. The effect as a whole is doubled: who cares? It is all delusion and of no point at all.