Released in 2000 and directed by Mary Harron, American Psycho is a dark, comedic film adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same namesake. The film stars Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto and William Defoe, among others. The film is set in 1987 New York City.
The novel’s narrator, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), is a 27-year-old investment banker. Bateman, who relays the novel’s actions, as well as his innermost thoughts, opinions, and musings on music and popular culture, is a dominant, competitive, yuppy, hot head. Bateman is a satirical version of the self-absorbed Wall Street brokers of the 1980s.
Throughout the film, Bateman relays the stream-of-consciousness musings and events of his highly regimented life. In great detail, Bateman describes his morning routine, which consists of an intense fitness regimen, skincare, and grooming routine. Bateman and his circle of yuppy Wall Street friends, dine at only the chicest and most expensive restaurants, wear only the most exceptional designer suits, and chase only the most physically attractive women, deemed “hardbodies”.
What may appear to be the perfect life for a wealthy young man immersed in the capitalist, materialistic 1980s Wall Street society, Patrick Bateman’s American dream is far from perfect. Not only is he unhappy in his relationship with his girlfriend, Evelyn, but he also has a sex obsession, occupying most of his nights with lovers, porn, and prostitutes. He and his clique are also heavy drinkers and cocaine users. Despite spending a lot of time together, Bateman and his tight circle of friends have no real connection with one another. Instead, they focus solely on the clothes they wear, the coveted restaurants they are seen at, and who they are seen with.
This group despises and mocks anyone who does not have their wealth or taste, especially the homeless, who they enjoy ridiculing and taunting. Bateman lives in a world of extreme capitalism and consumptions, mirroring the economy of the late 1980s. To Bateman, people are objects to be either valued or discarded, and his vices and tendencies are isolated inside his own mind.
As the film progresses, Patrick Bateman is revealed as a sociopathic serial killer. He fantasizes about committing violent acts whenever he is out to dinner with Evelyn or at a nightclub with his friends. Bateman describes the painful things he would like to do to others and references past murders he has committed. However, it is unclear whether these events indeed took place or if they are a product of Bateman’s fantasies. Bateman’s violent thoughts are eventually accompanied by violent actions, as he describes in detail acts of rape, torture, and murder.
As Bateman hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends, he dives deeper and deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies, wreaking havoc on those who are in and outside of his elite circle. Isn’t it interesting that Christian Bale went from playing Patrick Bateman to Batman?