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Thursday, April 27, 2023

American Psycho [Analysis]: Worth the Hype? the Controversy?

The age of this movie approaches a quarter of century--its silver anniversary. It is probably in the top 10-20% of films--worth rewatching. But it was hard for me to buy into it.

I remember spotting the book by Bret Easton Ellis in the bins and my being attracted to the title yet put off. I have a recollection of some claiming it was overrated, a must-read by others. My experience of the film must have been similar, hearing opposing opinions, and running into the show in the late beginning and sensing jarring double tones. 

It is not a movie you can pick up anywhere. You must start at the beginning with the opening credits:

Feel the contrast of tones. Yet feel how they meet, collide, slide past one another, compliment and negate. It's all well done.

The opening title and the knife create one expectation, then serve up another. But both exist together with the elegant yet playful music, set against plates decorated as much for design as for taste. The laundry list of foods is probably outside most people's checkbook, let alone taste buds.

We come upon the men gathered at a table with crude joking contrasted with serious business discussion, adding a dash of confusion over who and where Paul Allen is.

Now Paul Allen was a real person, one of the wealthy who helped Bill Gates forge the early PC revolution. So there's that play going on here as well since the Paul Allen discussed here is fictitious and has nothing to do with the early PC revolution. But this play, this contrast, this misdirection, this confusion--all play into the story.

Stop here if you haven't seen the film and you plan to do so. Spoilers lie ahead--thematic along with suggestive ones.


The book was apparently accused of being "overly violent and misogynistic." [Wiki] I can't form an opinion of this, without having read the book yet. As for violence, well, it's been outdone (before and even more so after). 
As for misogyny, the movie is written and directed by women. It piques my curiosity about the work of these two ladies due to the risks they took here. 
I did read the novel opening and it has a quite different feel from either it's detractors or even the director and the screenwriter's rendition here. But I will have to revisit this at a later date.

The theme is interesting, rather blatant -- for those who are seeking such things. At no point did I view it as an attack on women. Maybe? There is misogyny, but it's part of a greater blindness to people. Such a viewing would have to leave out the rest of the film. It's strange to mistake design for flaw.
A better theme? Capitalism kills? Or, at least, it makes you want to. It is cleverly played not just in the dialogue and scenes, but also in the music lyrics themselves. I thought the theme was going to hang itself (the same kind of problem that people have there being real vampires), but it pulls its head out of the noose in the nick of time. So that the theme ends up being a bit more ambiguous towards its theme. It explains some luck, but the 90 degree turn is a bit too fast. It might be worth planting clues and making it a bit more realistic. However, because of that turn, a whole new question has to brought to the table. Is the movie about what it seems to be?

Note, too, how the film plays with what the actual genre of the story is. It starts in one place, suggests the primary one suggested in the title, shifts naturally into the detective, and then becomes...

Check it out if you haven't already. Watch it again. Rich, nuanced (despite initially appearing anything but), it repays multiple viewings.

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