American Psycho (2000)
Frequently Asked Questions
Nothing explicit is seen, but there are two instances of violence involving animals, although only one animal is hurt. The first features a dog owned by a homeless man, Al (Reg E. Cathey), who is stabbed to death by Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale). After Al is dead, Bateman stomps on the dog, however, we don't actually see him stomping on it, he raises his foot and the camera cuts to a wide angle where we hear the dog yelp. The second scene involves an ATM machine requesting that Bateman feed it a stray cat. Bateman picks up a nearby kitten and lifts it up to the ATM slot, pointing his gun at its head. However, before he can fire, he is interrupted by an old woman (Joyce R. Korbin). Bateman then shoots the woman instead, letting the cat go. The scenes from the novel where Bateman slices a dog's stomach open and cuts its owner's throat, where he drowns Evelyn's dog, and where he crushes a rat by stomping on it are not in the film, nor is the infamous scene from the novel where he tortures a girl by putting a live rat into her vagina.
You could say that. The book was originally set to be published in hardback by Simon & Schuster in March 1991. However, after extracts from the novel were leaked to the press in August 1990, female workers at S&S began to protest the forthcoming publication. TIME and Spy, a satirical journal built upon a mockery of all things 80s (in a similar vein to the novel), obtained drafts of the novel and ran with the story, with Spy referring to it as "misogynistic barbarism."
In the light of the ensuing controversy, Simon & Schuster decided not to go ahead with publication, citing "aesthetic differences." Additionally, Penguin, who had published paperback editions of Ellis' previous novels, decided to follow suit and they too chose not to publish American Psycho. Similarly, George Corsillo, who had designed the jackets for Ellis' previous work, turned down the American Psycho job, citing "creative differences."
No sooner had Simon & Schuster pulled out of publishing the novel however, when, in a controversial move, the president and editor-in-chief of Vintage Books, Sonny Mehta, stepped in and announced that Vintage had purchased the publication rights from S&S. Vintage was an imprint of Alfred A. Knopf Inc., who published trade paperbacks only, under their Vintage Classics label. As such, the novel would not receive a hardback release. Nevertheless, Mehta's decision made headlines news. For example, New York ran a cover story on the novel and on Mehta's purchasing of its publication rights, and CNN read extracts from the novel live on-air.
Upon Vintage's acquisition of the rights, feminist activist Tammy Bruce, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), called for a nationwide boycott of all Vintage and Knopf books, with the specific exception of those by feminist authors, although she did call on such authors to sever their relationships with both companies. The boycott began on November 19th, 1990, with an excerpt from the novel recorded on the Los Angeles NOW's telephone hot-line. However, it quickly emerged that Bruce's initiative, which according to booksellers, was in no way successful, had not been sanctioned by NOW's board of directors. Instead, they had responded to the situation by requesting a meeting with Mehta hoping to talk him out of publishing the novel. Mehta refused to meet with them.
Ultimately, publication went ahead as planned in early 1991, and the novel instantly became a bestseller. However, the controversy was far from over. The novel's graphic descriptions of the murder and sexual mutilation of women continued to be attacked as inexcusable and Ellis received numerous death threats and hate mail. The New York Times wrote a lengthy review entitled "Don't Buy This Book," in which it condemned the novel as one of the worst pieces of literature ever written, whilst both PEN International (a worldwide association of authors) and the Authors' Guild subtly disassociated themselves from Ellis. However, the novel did have its supporters; Norman Mailer wrote a 10,000 word defense of both novel and author for Vanity Fair, and Ellis' friend and contemporary Jay McInerney engaged in a debate with several members of NOW on CNN in which he tried to argue that the novel was a comedy which condemned men, not a misogynistic fantasy which exploited women
One particularly vocal opponent of the book was feminist activist Tara Baxter. After the novel was released, Baxter went to a B. Dalton Bookseller store in Santa Cruz and began to read some of the more graphic passages from the novel aloud. The owner of the store asked her to leave, which she refused to do, so the police were called, and Baxter was warned that if she didn't stop, she would be arrested for trespassing. She responded by reading louder and was promptly arrested. The incident made the nightly news and the front page of every newspaper in Santa Cruz. Baxter then wrote an angry response to the situation, in which she is quoted as saying, There are better ways of taking care of Bret Easton Ellis than just censoring him. I would much prefer to see him skinned alive, a rat put up his rectum, and his genitals cut off and fried in a frying pan, in front of - not only a live audience - but a video camera as well. These videos can be sold as "art" and "free expression" and could be available at every video outlet, library, liquor, and convenience store in the world. We can profit off of Ellis' terror and pain, just as he and bookstores are profiting off of the rape, torture, and mutilation of women.
[the complete article is available here] After being released from jail, Baxter visited every bookstore in Santa Cruz and poured blood on every single copy of the novel she could find.
This proved to be the last major incident in the controversy surrounding the novel (at least until it was announced that Leonardo DiCaprio was to star in a filmic adaptation in 1998), but such controversy was not limited to the United States. In Germany, for example, the novel was deemed "harmful to minors", and its sales and marketing were severely restricted up to 2000, when it was allowed to be sold generally. The novel was originally banned in Nova Scotia, Canada. In Australia and New Zealand, as of 2010, it is sold shrink-wrapped and classified R18. It is still banned completely in Queensland. Even in Queensland University, it is available only to certain students, and is not kept on the general shelves. In Brisbane, the novel is available to those over 18 from public libraries only; bookstores are not allowed to carry it, although they can order copies for a private buyer if one makes a specific request.
The time period of the film is late 1986 to March 4th, 1987; as is evident by the Christmas party early in the movie and the Ronald Reagan speech on the TV in the last scene.
Yes. Bale's father, David Bale married feminist activist Gloria Steinem in 2000. Upon publication of the novel in 1991, Steinem was one of several prolific opponents of the book and wrote numerous articles condemning both it and its author. In an interview for GQ in 2007, Bale was asked whether he intentionally took on the role in the film due to resentment against his father's girlfriend (David and Steinem were dating when Christian signed on to do the film). He said that this was not the case, and that people only find these links between his career and personal life because they want to. Interestingly enough, in 1998, it was Steinem who allegedly talked Leonardo DiCaprio out of playing Bateman, arguing that he would alienate his entire fanbase by appearing in the film. This ultimately led to Bale being cast.
Yes, he did. Ellis actually wrote an extensive, and generally positive review of the film for the official site. Ellis also appeared on an episode of Charlie Rose (1991), along with Christian Bale and co-screenwriter/director Mary Harron, where he said he liked the film very much, and felt it improved on the novel in certain aspects; "the film clarified the themes of the novel. It clarified that the novel was a critique of male behavior." (The interview can be viewed in its entirety here.)
In his review of the film, Ellis particularly praised the work of production designer Gideon Ponte, actor Christian Bale and director Mary Harron. He pointed out that the harshness of the novel, by necessity, had been reduced for the film, which concentrated more on the inherent humor. He also argued that the film worked as a thematic companion piece to Harron's previous film, I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), a film about Valerie Solanas, who tried to shoot Andy Warhol in 1968, likening Bateman to Solanas. He was especially pleased that the film depicted Bateman as extremely uncool, a total loser.
The only parts of the film that Ellis criticized in his review were Bateman's dance prior to killing Paul Allen (Jared Leto), which he felt was too close to slapstick humor (ironically, this is Harron's favorite part of the film), and the voice-over which runs throughout the movie, which he felt was "too explicit."
Yes and no. The film itself has no explicit connections to any of the other adaptations of Ellis' work; Less Than Zero (1987) (1987), The Rules of Attraction (2002) (2002) and The Informers (2008) (2008). However, for those who know the novels upon which the films are based, there are a number of implicit connections. The main character in the novel American Psycho (1991), Patrick Bateman, was originally introduced in the novel Rules of Attraction (1987) as the main character Sean Bateman's brother. Sean also appeared in a small scene in the American Psycho novel. As far as the filmic adaptations go, American Psycho was adapted first, and the scene with Sean was omitted. When making Rules of Attraction, screenwriter/director Roger Avary had initially hoped that Christian Bale could do a cameo as Bateman, but the plans fell through. Instead, there is a scene where Sean mentions talking to his brother on the phone.
There is no connection between Bateman and either the novel (1985) or the film version of Less Than Zero, or the short story collection (1994) or film version of The Informers. Bateman does however make a short appearance in Glamorama (1998), which has not, as of yet, been adapted into a film. Bateman also appears in Ellis' fictional-autobiography Lunar Park (2005), in which Ellis himself is haunted by the spirit of Bateman and the forces of evil that were unleashed when Ellis created the character. Toward the end of the novel, Ellis writes the "last" Bateman story as a way of confronting and controlling the ghost, and has the character burn to death in a fire. As to how this will be handled in the upcoming adaptation of Lunar Park remains to be seen. Similarly, whether or not Bateman is really "dead" remains an open question.
The online sequel, Am.Psycho2000, was a series of e-mails written from Bateman to his psychiatrist which were sent to subscribers to the film's official site in the months leading up to the release of the film. The emails are considered canon insofar as, although Bret Easton Ellis himself didn't write them, he did approve them before they were sent out.
Set in 2000, with Bateman no longer working for Pierce & Pierce due to something he refers to only as the "issue," the emails reveal that he has become a huge success. Fabulously wealthy, he personally owns, amongst other things, a Falcon 50 jet, a one of a kind Aston Martin, two Bentleys and a Mercedes. He wears a 1938 Platinum Breguet Minute Repeater worth over $217,000. He owns a championship winning racehorse. His clothes are sent to him by designers prior to being released in stores. He has a manservant named Ricardo who follows him everywhere and is always on hand. A writer from The New York Times wants to do a piece on his remarkable success for the paper's business section, Architectural Digest have photographed his apartment for a special issue on luxury homes. Still living in New York, he spends most of his leisure time hanging out with A-list movie stars, heads of state and fashion designers. He owns a riverfront property built as a replica of the Czar's summer palace, complete with 121 live-in servants. His main residence is apartments 19 and 20 in Emery Roth's Mansions in the Sky, where his immediate neighbors include Yoko Ono, Steven Spielberg and Calvin Klein. In his apartment he owns original work by Andy Warhol, Damien Hurst, Donald Baechlor, Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Balthus, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler. Known all over town, he receives special treatment at many of the city's most exclusive bars, restaurants and salons. His masseuse, Manfred, does callouts only to Bateman and a member of the Rockefeller family. He gets his hair cut every twelve days by the best hairstylist in New York. His personal trainer also trains the New York Giants, Oscar De La Hoya and Cirque du Soleil. His best friend is Simone de Reveney, a multi-billionaire and the largest refiner of Russian gold in the world.
Over the course of the emails, it is revealed that in 1991, Bateman married Jean, his former secretary (played by Chloë Sevigny in the film), although by 2000 they are going through a nasty divorce, battling for custody of their eight-year-old son, Patrick Bateman Jr. (who Bateman refers to as PB, and says he is an intellectual prodigy, uninterested in childish distractions). It subsequently transpires that Bateman's psychiatrist, Dr. M, is in fact having an affair with Jean, and the two have fallen in love. Bateman also reveals that he still does the occasional line of coke and is still taking Xanax. He is involved in only one violent incident during the period documented (from March 15th, 2000 to April 17th, 2000); he breaks the jaw and crushes the trachea of a beggar who tries to mug him at an ATM.
Various characters from the film/novel are also mentioned. Donald Kimball (played by Willem Dafoe in the film) is now the Police Commissioner and has become a good friend of Bateman. Evelyn (played by Reese Witherspoon in the film) is on her third marriage, to a foreign dignitary (referred to by Bateman as "European gay aristo-trash"), as were her two previous husbands (her married names were Princess de Vestota and Comtesse D'Erlanger). Currently she is known as Duchess of Risborough. David Van Patten (played by Bill Sage in the film) is still in the same business as before but is considerably less successful than Bateman. Luis Carruthers (played by Matt Ross in the film) now works for Bateman, using his contacts in the entertainment industry to Bateman's advantage (as Bateman puts it, "sucking valuable information"). Courtney (played by Samantha Mathis in the film) has moved home to her parents' ranch in Arizona and helps out at a youth hospice. Having split up with Carruthers, she got involved with Timothy Price (Timothy Price is called Timothy Bryce in the film where he is played by Justin Theroux), but the relationship never went anywhere and she left New York. Marcus Halberstram (played by Anthony Lemke in the film) has left the United States after being implicated in the still unexplained disappearance of Paul Owen (Paul Owen is called Paul Allen in the film where he is played by Jared Leto). Unable to shake the rumors of his involvement, Bateman assisted Halberstram in getting a job in Europe. It is also revealed that the restaurant Dorsia has closed down.
In the "plot" of the emails, Bateman is attempting to outmaneuver a successful businessman named T. Davis Ferguson, the largest producer of Silicate in the world, by manipulating Ferguson's wayward son, Terry Davis. Ferguson had set up a trust named the Trey Corporation, which is worth $2 billion, in which he placed all of his assets due to an issue with the State Department. As such his name is not on any of the ownership documents or stock certificates, which are instead all in his son's name. Davis however, who is estranged from his father, is unaware of this until Bateman and Simone de Reveney inform him. De Reveney then begins to purchase shares from Davis, and the only way Ferguson can stop him is by revealing his own interests in the company, thus exposing the illegality of his operation. As such, unaware that Bateman is working with de Reveney, Ferguson asks Bateman for help, who agrees to do what he can, secretly reveling in the irony inherent in the fact that Ferguson has turned to the architect of his demise for assistance. Meanwhile, Davis goes to see his father and tells him that he knows about the company, and, shocked and horrified, Ferguson staggers to a chair and attempts to sit down. However, he misses the chair and crashes through a glass table, severing his artery and bleeding to death (as Davis puts it when leaving the building; his father "had fallen and couldn't get up". Bateman then purchases the trust outright, and the bisexual Davis joins the homosexual de Reveney on his yacht. At the end of the emails, as Bateman heads to a private retreat in the French Riviera, he is asked by the steward if he'd like to see a movie. Saying he would, the steward puts on the newest soon to be released film from a production company owned by Bateman himself. As the emails draw to a close and Bateman begins watching the movie, the film begins with the opening credit sequence from American Psycho itself.
The entire set of Am.Psycho2000 emails is transcribed chronologically here.
There is no official relationship whatsoever. American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002) sees Bateman (played by Michael Kremko) killed by a potential victim (Mila Kunis), who then becomes a serial killer herself. American Psycho II is an unofficial spin-off which is not considered canon. None of the people involved in either the original novel or the film had anything to do with the "sequel", and Bret Easton Ellis himself has condemned the film, distancing himself and the makers of American Psycho from it and emphasizing that the film is not a part of the official Bateman mythology.
Although Bateman obviously works in mergers and acquisitions, the specifics of his job are purposely kept something of a mystery in both the novel and the film. According to his business card, he is a vice president at Pierce & Pierce. However, throughout the course of the film, we also see business cards belonging to Timothy Bryce, Paul Allen, David Van Patten and Luis Carruthers, all of whom possess the exact same job title, thus suggesting that Vice President is not a particularly unique or important position. Bateman also informs us in voiceover that Marcus Halberstram does the exact same thing at the company as he does, so presumably Halberstram is a vice president as well. We also know that Bateman's father is extremely important in the company hierarchy, and that Bateman could be doing something with more responsibility if he wanted to, again suggesting that his role is not particularly specialized. In the novel, Bateman tells us that Paul Allen is often mistaken for an arbitrageur, when he is in fact a merger-maker (322), and the implication is that Bateman himself is an arbitrageur. However, nowhere in either the film or the novel is the exact nature of Bateman's job explained, nor do we ever see him actually doing any work.
According to Mary Harron on her DVD commentary, the lack of specifics and failure to identify his exact role are thematically important and offer a commentary on Bateman's psychological state; We never see him do any work. Some critics objected to that, as how can we misrepresent the world of Wall Street, but it's not meant to be a literal representation of Wall Street. Of course brokers work very hard, but this isn't a realistic portrayal of office life. We wanted to stress Bateman's complete disconnection from the world around him, and so when he's left alone, the mask drops, there's nothing there, he doesn't know what to do, he has no role [...] Somehow, it's a pretend job, as much of a performance as the rest of his life, and it's a façade, his social life's a façade, his romantic's life a façade, and in a way, if we showed him really working it would interfere with the hallucinatory feel.
The theme described by Harron here is also important in the novel, where Bateman's failure to ever do any real work is mentioned several times. For example, in a scene between Bateman and Evelyn, she asks him if they can go out the following night, and he replies that he can't because he's got to work, to which Evelyn says, "You practically own that damn company. What work? What work do you do? I don't understand" (221). Later, Elizabeth (played by Guinevere Turner in the film) tells him, "I don't have to work, Bateman. You of all people should know how that feels, Mr. Wall Street" (283).
When comparing business cards with his co-workers, Bateman tells them that the font in which his card is written is Silian Rail.
This is not a real font, the name was invented by Bret Easton Ellis for the novel. In the film, the actual font seen on the business card is Garamond Classico SC.
Although it is not revealed in the film what the tablets are, in the corresponding scene in the novel, Bateman takes two valium.
After Bateman has had sex with Christie (Cara Seymour) and Sabrina (Krista Sutton), they are all lying together in bed, when he gets up and moves over to a drawer. He opens it, revealing a number of sharp metal items. He pulls out a coat-hanger and tells the prostitutes that they aren't finished yet. The scene then cuts to Sabrina and Christie walking out of Bateman's apartment; Sabrina is cut, limping, bruised and bleeding, we don't see Christie's face, but we do learn later that whatever happened, she had to attend casualty.
It is revealed in neither the book nor the film what exactly Bateman does to the girls. In the novel, the corresponding scene reads: I awaken only when one of them touches my wrist accidentally. My eyes open and I warn them not to touch the Rolex, which I've kept on during this entire time. They lie quietly on either side of me, sometimes touching my chest, once in a while running their hands over the muscles in my abdomen. A half hour later I'm hard again. I stand up and walk over to the armoire, where, next to the nail gun, rests a sharpened coat hanger, a rusty butter knife, matches from the Gotham Bar and Grill and a half-smoked cigar; turning around, naked, my erection jutting out in front of me, I hold these items out and explain in a hoarse whisper, "We're not through yet..." An hour later I will impatiently lead them to the door, both of them dressed and sobbing, bleeding but well paid. Tomorrow Sabrina will have a limp. Christie will probably have a terrible black eye and deep scratches across her buttocks caused by the coat hanger. Bloodstained Kleenex will lie crumpled by the side of the bed along with an empty carton of Italian seasoning salt I picked up at Dean & Deluca.
Three times during the course of the film, Bateman mentions returning videotapes; after Carruthers makes a pass at him in a bathroom, during his second interview with Kimball, and in a restaurant as he breaks up with Evelyn.
In the novel, returning videotapes is mentioned even more frequently than in the film. For example; "I was fooling around renting videotapes" (p. 118 - explaining to Evelyn why he didn't take her call); "I've gotta return my videotapes, I've gotta return my videotapes" (p. 151 - during a mental breakdown); "It doesn't give me enough time to return yesterday's videotapes" (p. 229 - during lunch with his brother); "I have to return some videotapes" (p. 265 - trying to excuse himself from a date with Jean, despite it being midnight).
On a practical level, the returning of videotapes seems to be Bateman's standard excuse to explain his whereabouts or to get out of something he's not interested in. Additionally, the frequent mention of videotapes (as opposed to DVDs) helps to date the story. On a more analytical level, videotapes could also function as something of a status symbol (Bateman is so rich and cool, he can rent huge amounts of videotapes whenever he wants, and most nights, that's exactly what he does). Another idea is that the videotapes offer a commentary on Bateman's mindset. According to the film's official website, the videotape addiction is a metaphor for Bateman's "emotional isolation"; he has no real life himself, no real existence to keep him occupied, so he needs to fill that emptiness by continually immersing himself in the lives of others, i.e. filling his world with the world of film stars, living vicariously through their adventures and dramas.
This is explained in a deleted scene found on the DVD where Bryce has a breakdown of sorts in a club. He tells Bateman he's leaving, that he's had enough, and then jumps off the balcony, charges through the crowd and disappears out the door. The final scene in the film marks his reappearance. The scene of his breakdown is taken directly from the novel, where Price runs down into an abandoned railway tunnel. In the novel, as in the film, he returns towards the end with no explanation for his whereabouts or what he has been doing. When directly asked by Bateman where he has been, Price answers with "Just making the rounds" (p. 384), and nobody enquires any further as to exactly what this means.
Mistaken identity is a major theme in both the film and the novel, and some fans argue that it is in the recurring cases of mistaken identity wherein lies the true meaning of the film.
In the novel, the phrase "...someone who looked exactly like..." or variations thereof, occur continuously; time and again Bateman encounters people who may or may not be the person he thinks they are. Similarly, upon saying hello to these people, they usually respond by calling Bateman the wrong name. For example, in the opening scene of the novel, A guy who looks a lot like Luis Carruthers waves over at Timothy and when Timothy doesn't return the wave the guy - slicked-back hair, suspenders, horn rimmed glasses - realizes it's not who he thought it was and looks back at his copy of USA Today. [p. 5] Another good example can be found when Bateman and his colleagues are at a restaurant called Pastels; Some guy who looks exactly like Christopher Lauder comes over to the table and says, patting me on the shoulder, "Hey Hamilton, nice tan," before walking into the men's room. [p. 48] Later, in the Yale Club, I make my way slowly through the dining room, waving to someone who looks like Vincent Morrison, someone else who I'm fairly sure is someone who looks like Tom Newman. [p. 157] Another good example is in the restaurant Arcadia where "someone who I think is Hamilton Conway mistakes me for someone named Ted Owen" (p. 262).
In the film, the theme of mistaken identity is also important, albeit to a slightly lesser degree than in the novel. It is introduced in the opening scene in the restaurant. Bateman, McDermott, Bryce and Van Patten are sitting at a table and McDermott looks across the room and asks, "Is that Reed Robinson over there," to which Bryce replies, "Are you freebasing? That's not Reed Robinson." This prompts McDermott to ask "Well who is it then?," to which Bryce answers "It's Paul Allen." At this point, Bateman intervenes, saying "It's not Paul Allen. Paul Allen is on the other side of the room over there." We then see who Bateman is talking about and it isn't Paul Allen.
The next case of mistaken identity also involves Allen, as he continually misidentifies Bateman as Marcus Halberstram and Evelyn as Halberstram's girlfriend, Cecelia. In the novel, this leads to a scene where Bateman is trying to steal Owen's limo (in the novel, Paul Allen is called Paul Owen), and ends up getting mixed up over what his own name is, identifying himself to the driver as first Patrick and then Marcus (p. 190). Allen also refers to Bryce as Baxter, and at the same Christmas party where Allen continuously refers to Bateman as Halberstram, Bateman is also called McCloy by Harry Hamilton (Peter Tufford Kennedy).
Mistaken identity is also treated self-consciously and comically in the film; after Bateman has murdered Allen and is placing the body in the back of a car, he is approached by Carruthers who enquires, "Patrick? Is that you?," to which Bateman dead-pan replies, "No Luis, it's not me, you're mistaken."
The conversations between Bateman and Kimball also address the issue of mistaken identity. In their first meeting, Kimball tells Bateman that someone called Stephen Hughes thought he saw Paul Allen in London, but it turned out it was a person called Herbert Ainsworth;
Bateman: "Do you have any witnesses or fingerprints?"
Kimball: "Well, there's a message on his - answering machine? - that says he went to London."
B: "Maybe he did, huh?"
K: "His girlfriend doesn't think so."
B: "But has anyone seen him in London?"
K: "Actually, yes."
K: "But I've had a hard time getting actual verification. A Stephen Hughes said he saw him at a restaurant there, but I checked it out and what happened is he mistook a Herbert Ainsworth for Paul."
Then, in their last scene together, Kimball tells Bateman that according to Allen's diary he was having dinner with Halberstram the night he died (which is correct insofar as Allen thought Bateman was Halberstram). Kimball has asked the real Halberstram about it, and he denied being with Allen that night (which is true, as Bateman was with Allen). Halberstram then tells Kimball that he was at a club called Atlantis with Craig McDermott, Frederick Dibble, Harry Newman, George Butler and Bateman himself (which is inaccurate, insofar as Bateman was killing Paul Allen when Halberstram was at Atlantis). Mistaken identity is now working on different two levels; Allen's mistaking of Bateman for Halberstram, and Halberstram's mistaking of someone else for Bateman.
Another small example of mistaken identity is seen when Bateman enters the first office building towards the end of the film, where he is called Mr. Smith by the security guard. The most important conversation involving mistaken identity however is the conversation between Bateman and his lawyer, Harold Carnes (Stephen Bogaert). This conversation is discussed in the next question.
As to the overall significance of mistaken identity, one of the running themes of the film and the novel is that everyone looks like everyone else, everyone dresses the same, listens to the same music, has similar jobs, goes to the same clubs and hairstylists, etc. They literally cannot tell one another apart, nor do they particularly want to. This functions as part of the film's critique of 80s hedonism - everyone looks alike, no one really knows anyone else, everyone is disconnected; they are all successful and wealthy, they all look great and eat well, they are all cultured and well travelled, but none of them have any kind of individuating characteristics, and none of them take the trouble to really know any of the others. They have many casual acquaintances, but no real connections with one another. Not only are they socially and psychologically uniform, but they accept and promulgate that uniformity, reveling in one another's anonymity as it necessitates that personal relationships are superfluous to the achievement of their ultimate goals - success and wealth. And because every single one of them operates with this belief, mistaken identity occurs on a daily basis.
As Mary Harron points out on her DVD commentary, Bateman is just one of a group. They're all handsome, they all wear smart suits, they all dress alike, they're all manicured, they all have the same business card [...] Because they all look alike, no one knows who anyone is. This aspect is also emphasized in a deleted scene on the DVD. After a particularly infuriating party, Bateman asks Evelyn why she doesn't just date Bryce instead of him, pointing out that Bryce is rich, good-looking and has a great body, to which Evelyn replies, "Everybody's rich. Everybody's good-looking. Everybody has a great body." Similarly, in the novel, when Bateman arrives at a club called Tunnel, he looks around and muses to himself "Everyone looks familiar, everyone looks the same" (p. 61).
In the final scene of the film, after Bateman has confessed to the murders, he confronts his lawyer in a bar and tries to talk to him about it. The conversation however, does not go the way Bateman anticipated;
Bateman: "Did you get my message?"
Carnes: "Jesus, yes, that was hilarious. That was you wasn't it?"
B: "Yeah, naturally."
C: "Bateman killing Allen and the escort girls, that's fabulous, that's rich."
B: "What exactly do you mean?"
C: "The message you left. By the way Davis, how's Silvia, you're still seeing her right?"
B: "Wait Harold, what do you mean?"
C: "Oh, excuse me, nothing. It's good to see you. Is that Edward Towers?"
Carnes tries to walk away, but Bateman prevents him.
C: "Davis, I'm not one to badmouth anyone, your joke was amusing, but c'mon man, it had one fatal flaw. Bateman is such a dork, such a boring spineless lightweight. Now if you'd said Bryce or McDermott. Otherwise it was amusing. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really must be going."
He tries to walk away again, but is again stopped by Bateman.
B: "Wait. Eh. Stop. I did it Carnes. I killed him. I'm Patrick Bateman. I chopped Allen's fucking head off. The whole message I left on your machine is true."
C (suddenly much more serious): "Excuse me, I really must be going now."
Once more Carnes tries to leave, once more Bateman stops him.
B: "No, listen, don't you know who I am? I'm not Davis, I'm Patrick Bateman. We talk on the phone all the time. Don't you recognize me? You're my lawyer. Now Carnes, listen, listen very very carefully. I killed Paul Allen, and I liked it. I can't make myself any clearer."
C: "That's simply not possible. And I don't find this funny anymore."
B: "It never was supposed to be. Why isn't it possible?"
C: "It's just not."
B: "Why not you stupid bastard?"
C: "Because I had dinner with Paul Allen twice in London, just ten days ago."
There are essentially two schools of thought on the question of what exactly happens in this conversation, two theories which apply to much of the film:
(1) The first theory is a practical one which argues that the scene simply continues the mistaken identity theme. The issue of mistaken identity comes up time and again in the film; it is why Paul Allen refers to McDermott as Baxter and Bateman as Halberstram, it is why Stephen Hughes thought he saw Paul Allen in London, it is why Halberstram thought he was with Bateman the night Allen was murdered. Taking this into consideration, there is a possibility that all that is happening in this scene is that Carnes has mistaken Bateman for someone named Davis, and has presumably mistaken someone else for Bateman (possibly Davis). This explains why Carnes calls Bateman a "boring spineless lightweight" right to his face, and in the third person. If one accepts this theory, then this also explains how Carnes could have had lunch with Paul Allen in London after Bateman had already killed Allen; Carnes had lunch with someone he thought was Allen but was, in reality, someone else entirely. This would make the situation identical to when Allen thought he was having dinner with Halberstram when he was in fact having dinner with Bateman. Interestingly enough, in the novel, a second layer is added to this scene which supports the mistaken identity theory; Carnes first refers to Bateman as Davis, and then at the end of the conversation refers to him as Donaldson.
(2) The second theory is that the conversation provides evidence that the murders are all in Bateman's head; it proves Bateman didn't kill Allen, because if Allen is alive and well in London, how could Bateman have killed him? By extension then, presumably, none of the murders are real - Bateman is simply insane and he imagines himself committing unspeakable acts when in fact he is doing no harm to anyone. This theory works on the premise that Carnes did have lunch with Paul Allen in London, that there is no issue of mistaken identity, and that Bateman's murder of Allen is purely the product of his own warped mind. This theory is examined in more detail below.
Oftentimes during the course of the film, Bateman has outbursts of rage, which are clearly the kind of thing that should provoke concern in the people who hear them. However, at no point does anyone ever react in any way seriously to what he says.
Examples of Bateman's outbursts include; in the nightclub early in the movie, Bateman says to the bartender (Kelley Harron), "You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death, and play around with your blood." Later, when Bateman is dining with Paul Allen, he tells him "I like to dissect girls. Did you know I'm utterly insane?" In another scene, he tells a Chinese woman (Margaret Ma), "If you don't shut your mouth, I will fucking kill you." Perhaps the fact that Bateman is well-dressed and appears confident, in control, leads people to disregard his threats.
Similarly, at various points in the novel, Bateman makes comparable statements which are completely disregarded. For example, when Carruthers confronts him in a clothes store, confessing his love and begging Bateman to love him back, he ends up on the ground, grabbing onto Bateman's leg, and Bateman shouts "I am going to slit your fucking throat,", to which Carruthers responds, "Oh just kill me [...] If I can't have you, I don't want to live. I want to die" (p. 295). Later, as Bateman, McDermott and Van Patten try to decide where to have dinner, McDermott asks Bateman what he wants to do, and Bateman says, "I want to pulverize a woman's face with a large heavy brick," to which McDermott flippantly replies, "Besides that" (p. 312). During the same conversation, Bateman also says, "It's not beyond my capacity to drive a lead pipe repeatedly into a girl's vagina," to which McDermott says, "We all know about your lead pipe Bateman," followed by Van Patten asking, "Is he like trying to tell us he has a big dick?" (p. 325). Another example is when Bateman is trying to break up with Evelyn, telling her, "My need to engage in homicidal behavior on a massive scale cannot be corrected," to which she tearfully replies, "If you're going to start in again on why I should have breast implants, I'm leaving" (p. 338). Indeed, the only time in the novel when someone does acknowledge that Bateman is a little unusual is when he doesn't order hash browns with his dinner at a restaurant called Smith and Wollensky, prompting McDermott to call him, "a raving maniac" (p. 363).
As with the question of what happens in the conversation with Carnes, there are two primary schools of thought on why people never seem to react when he says these things:
(1) As with Carnes, the first theory is a practical one which argues that people can hear what he says, but just don't care. When Bateman calls the bargirl an ugly bitch, maybe she's so used to hearing such abuse, she just doesn't respond anymore. When he tells Allen he's insane, Allen is drunk and seems to assume that Bateman is joking. When he tells the Chinese woman at the drycleaners that he will kill her, she doesn't seem to fully understand him, although she does react slightly to his threat. As such, people do hear him, but no one is really listening to him or taking him seriously. The same can be said of the above examples from the novel. As with the practical explanation of the mistaken identity theme and the Carnes conversation, this would tie it into the film's social critique; everyone looks alike, no one knows anyone else, and no one really listens to anyone else either. The vapid society they have created is a place where no one has any real interaction with anyone else; they all talk to one another, they all hear one another, but they don't listen to one another. They are all so self-obsessed that no matter what any of them says, the others don't care and won't react; if it doesn't directly involve them, they simply aren't interested. This becomes extremely important in relation to Bateman's confession, which, according to this theory, is another example of people failing to really listen to what he says; no matter what a man admits to, no one else cares about his crimes, because no one else cares about him, or about anybody other then themselves. He tries to confess, but he simply can't get anyone to take an interest. No matter what he says or what he claims to have done, the people around him just don't react. Interestingly enough, in Am.Psycho2000, Bateman tells Dr. M, "I tried to confess once, but no one would listen."
(2) The second theory is that Bateman isn't really saying such things out loud at all, his outbursts are all internal, but he psychologically manifests them as external. It is simply another component of his psychosis, which also includes fantasies of killing and torture. None of it is real, Bateman is insane, and nothing he sees, says or does can be completely trusted as reality. As such, the reason the people don't react is simply because he isn't speaking out loud.
Near the end of the film, Bateman stops by Paul Allen's apartment to clean up the evidence of his crimes (primarily the murder of Elizabeth and Christie). When he arrives however, the apartment is bare, cleared of all possessions, and the gruesome mess left in the wake of his murders is gone. Bateman is approached by an older woman (called Mrs. Wolfe in the novel and the film credits; played by Patricia Gage), presumably a real estate agent, who inquires if he saw the advertisement in The New York Times. Bateman initially says he didn't but then changes his mind and says he did. Wolfe responds by telling him there was no ad in the Times. She then tells him that he should go, and that she doesn't want trouble. Bateman, appearing very disturbed and confused, begins to leave, and when Wolfe tells him not to come back, he assures her that he has no intention of doing so.
As with the Carnes conversation and the issue of Bateman's outbursts, there are two main theories on this scene.
(1) Once again, the first theory is a practical one; the apartment is simply up for sale due to the disappearance of its former occupant. Wolfe, or the company she works for, could have decided that after a period of time during which no rent had been paid, and nobody had been able to contact Allen (because he is dead), it was time to check things out. Upon examining the apartment, they would find evidence of murder and torture (of Elizabeth and Christie), and rather than call the police, which would seriously devalue a prime piece of real estate, they quietly clean things up themselves and remove Allen's possessions. This theory would explain why Wolfe tells Bateman to leave, why she asks so strangely, and what she means when she says she doesn't want any trouble; she suspects that he has something to do with the murders which she is trying to cover up, so she wants him as far away as possible in case he jeopardizes her sale. This theory is supported by the novel, where it is strongly implied that Wolfe knows about the murders and realizes that Bateman is involved (p. 369).
This interpretation is best explained by actress/co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner on her DVD commentary;
To me, the more disturbing part about this scene is that here's this real estate agent who really doesn't give a fuck what happened in this apartment and knows damn well what kind of state it was in. She just wants that association or anyone who might know anything about it to be away from the apartment so she can sell it. It's not about the law, it's not about justice, it's not about morality, it's about "You are damaging the potential for me to sell this apartment [...] Go, go, go. I don't want any of what your drama is anywhere near me making money, and we have painted over everything. It's clean." So although it's supposed to have a surreal feel, it's real.
Again, this theory ties into the film's social critique. Here, the desire to make money overrides all sense of moral decency and responsibility - Wolfe doesn't care what happened in the apartment as long as she can sell it, and if that means covering up what happened, so be it. The acquisition of wealth supersedes all other goals, being successful becomes more important than being moral. For Wolfe, selling the apartment is her single guiding principal; everything else is supplanted. Wolfe is shown to be no better or no different than Bateman and his associates; for each and every one of them, money is the be all and end all, they are all willing to do anything to acquire it and willing to do anything to retain it. The greed of real estates agencies is shown to be no better or worse than that of stock brokers; the materialistic, hedonistic, surface-obsessed world in which they live has shaped their outlooks and their goals, and they have become as much a cause as a product of the problems in their society.
(2) The second theory, again, is that the scene is another part of Bateman's psychosis, his deranged imagination playing tricks on him. The reason the apartment is empty is because there never were any murders committed there, perhaps Paul Allen never even lived there in the first place, or perhaps he genuinely has moved to London and the real estate company is attempting to rent the apartment to a new occupant. As with much of the film, if we accept this theory, exactly how much is reality, and how much is fantasy is difficult to say.
Mary Harron, for her part, favors the practical explanation championed by Turner, although she does acknowledge that there is a degree of ambiguity at play; You can read it as simply New York greed of real estate people wanting to sell an expensive apartment but ignoring the terrible things that took place there or it could be all in his imagination, an embodiment of his paranoia. It should slip between the two, I don't think you can find the meaning in one answer.
This is the most frequently asked question in relation to the film, and the answer remains ambiguous. As with the questions of why Allen's apartment is empty, how did Carnes see Allen in London, and why people ignore Bateman's outbursts, there are two basic theories:
(1) the murders are very real and Bateman is simply being ignored when he tries to confess
(2) everything happened in his imagination
Much of the discussion regarding the possibility of everything being in his mind focuses on the sequence which begins when the ATM asks him to feed it a stray cat. From this point up to the moment he rings Carnes and leaves his confession on the answering machine, there is a question regarding the reality of the film; is what we are seeing really happening, or is it purely the product of a disturbed mind? An important aspect of this question is Bateman's destruction of the police car, which explodes after he fires a single shot, causing even himself to look incredulously at his gun; many argue that this incident proves that what is happening is not real, and therefore, nothing that has gone before can be verified as being real either. Of this sequence, Mary Harron comments, You should not trust anything that you see. Trying to feed the cat into the ATM is sort of a giveaway. The ATM speaking to Bateman certainly indicates that things have taken a more hallucinatory turn. As such, if this scene is an hallucination, the question must be are all of his murders hallucinatory? Interestingly enough, in the corresponding scene in the novel, the narrative switches from 1st person present to 3rd person present mid-sentence (p. 341) at the beginning of the sequence, and then back to 1st person present (again mid-sentence) at the end (p. 352). This is a highly unusual narrative technique, suggestive of a sizable shift in consciousness and focalization, and an altogether different narrative perspective. This lends credence to the theory that the entire sequence is a hallucination, which in turn lends credence to the suggestion that much of what we see in the film is also an hallucination.
However, if this is the case, and if this sequence does represent pure fantasy, Harron ultimately came to feel that she had gone too far with the hallucinatory approach. In an interview with Charlie Rose, she stated that she felt she had failed with the end of the film because she led audiences to believe the murders were only in his imagination, which was not what she wanted. Instead, she wanted ambiguity; One thing I think is a failure on my part is people keep coming out of the film thinking that its all a dream, and I never intended that. All I wanted was to be ambiguous in the way that the book was. I think it's a failure of mine in the final scene because I just got the emphasis wrong. I should have left it more open ended. It makes it look like it was all in his head, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not.
Guinevere Turner agrees with Harron on this point; It's ambiguous in the novel whether or not it's real, or how much of it is real, and we decided, right off the bat, first conversation about the book, that we hate movies, books, stories that ended and "it was all a dream" or "it was all in his head". Like Boxing Helena (1993), there's just a lot of stuff like that. [...] And so we really set out, and we failed, and we've acknowledged this to each other, we really set out to make it really clear that he was really killing these people, that this was really happening. What's funny is that I've had endless conversations with people who know that I wrote this script saying "So, me and my friends were arguing, cause I know it was all a dream", or "I know it really happened". And I always tell them, in our minds it really happened. What starts to happen as the movie progresses is that what you're seeing is what's going on in his head. So when he shoots a car and it explodes, even he for a second is like "Huh?" because even he is starting to believe that his perception of reality cannot be right. As he goes more crazy, what you actually see becomes more distorted and harder to figure out, but it's meant to be that he is really killing all these people, it's just that he's probably not as nicely dressed, it probably didn't go as smoothly as he is perceiving it to go, the hookers probably weren't as hot etc etc etc It's just Bateman's fantasy world. And I've turned to Mary many times and said "We've failed, we didn't write the script that we intended to write".
In line with what both Harron and Turner feel about the question of whether or not the murders are real, Bret Easton Ellis has pointed out that if none of the murders actually happened, the entire point of the novel would be rendered moot. As with the practical theories regarding the Carnes conversation, the outbursts and the empty apartment, interpreting the murders as real is part of the film's social satire. Ellis has stated that the novel was intended to satirize the shallow, impersonal mindset of yuppie America in the late 1980s, and part of this critique is that even when a cold-blooded serial killer confesses, no one cares, no one listens and no one believes. The fact that Bateman is never caught and that no one believes his confession just reinforces the shallowness, self-absorption, and lack of morality that they all have. None of them care that he has just confessed to being a serial killer because it just doesn't matter; they have more important things to worry about. In Bateman's superficial high-class society, the fact that even his open confession to multiple murders is ignored serves to reinforce the idea of a vacuous, self-obsessed, materialistic world where empathy has been replaced by apathy. By extension then, this could be read as a condemnation of corporations in general; they too tend get away with murder (in a figurative sense) and most people just choose to ignore it, just as do Bateman's associates. In this sense then, Bateman serves as a metaphor, as do the very real murders. If the murders were purely in his head, the strong social commentary would be undermined and the film would become a psychological study of a deranged mind rather than a social satire. And whilst that is a perfectly valid interpretation, as Harron indicates above, it is not entirely what the filmmakers were attempting to achieve.
The most popular theory as to what the film is about is that it is a social satire, critiquing the hedonistic and self-obsessed New York of the late 1980s. As outlined above, the society depicted in the film is one of no real interpersonal relationships, no empathy, a society made up of people who care only about themselves and their own ability to accrue massive amounts of wealth and materialistic trophies; the richer you are the better you are. If someone has a nicer apartment than you, it is a cause for concern, if someone has a nicer business card than you, it is a cause for jealousy. In this decadent society, virtually everything functions as a status symbol; people have no real inner psychological awareness, they measure themselves on their external appearance, and they measure one another based upon what they see on the surface; the more elaborate the surface, the more successful the person. Simplicity suggests nothing but failure, if you don't wear an expensive suit, it means you can't afford one and are therefore inferior to those who can. None of the characters in the film would stop to think for a moment that perhaps someone may not be wearing an expensive suit because they don't want to. This kind of thinking simply doesn't enter into the equation in their society; a society of excess, greed, self-absorption and isolation.
This theme is perhaps more obvious in the novel. For example, the constant listing of the items of clothing worn by each and every character (this is mirrored in the film in Bateman's meticulous listing of his shower products). Another good example is a conversation between Bateman and Carruthers concerning Carruthers' recent dinner with a client. The client had roasted chicken, and neither Bateman nor Carruthers can understand the fact that the dinner came with no sauces or accessories. Completely incapable of grasping the idea of someone eating a normal chicken for dinner. At one point, an extremely confused Bateman asks, "What shape was it cut into?" (p. 107). A further example is when Bateman reluctantly attends a U2 concert with Evelyn. Complaining about everything, Bateman points out that "The only real pleasure I get from being here is seeing Scott and Ann Smiley ten rows behind us, in shitier, though probably not less expensive seats?" (p. 107). Bateman's seats are better, therefore, he has "won" the unspoken contest between them, and his superiority is something to be celebrated.
Regarding the film, the filmmakers themselves have offered various theories as to what the true meaning may be, and a good way to engage with the possibilities as to meaning is to look at what some of them have said about their own interpretations of the work, as well as the interpretations of critics and scholars. This selection of quotations offers a broad cross section of such opinions:
Official site: The unfolding cinematic fable suggests a series of themes about the 1980s: the obsession with outer perfection, even when it masks inner emptiness; the amoral insistence on conformity at all costs; the desire for stimulation that keeps raising the threshold higher—more drugs, money, sex, sound, color, action; and the emotional isolation, expressed by Bateman's videotape addiction, and the fact that he has no back-story, no family, no real characteristics apart from the labels on his clothes.
[official site archived here] Guinevere Turner: This is a story about men living in a man's world, competing with each other over who has a better tan, who has better clothes. Nobody can tell each other apart, it's all very empty, it's shallow, it's competitive, and it makes men look really really bad, and it makes them look kind of gay, because it is such a mans' world, and they are so obsessed with how they look, with clothes and their business cards, that it's taking that competitiveness to an aesthetic level that's kind of what we think of as how gay men are; impeccable dressed, impeccably groomed, really concerned with each other, and women are an outside factor. And it's funny, it's making fun of that, and I find that to be so powerful in the book, it's just outright mockery of male behavior.
[from DVD commentary track] Mary Harron: "The book and the film are often defined as being about the 1980s, but the 1980s did not invent greed, did not invent commodity fetishism, did not invent a society that is so obsessed with perfect surface" (from DVD commentary track).
Bret Easton Ellis: "Like the novel, the movie is essentially plotless, a horror-comedy with a thin narrative built up of satirical riffs about greed, status and the business values of the 1980s culture" (official site archived here).
Guinevere Turner: It's part of the idea of the character, that everything is so empty, although he has tons of money and he's constantly buying things and obsessing over having the thing, he's trying to fill this void, and it's not working. Part of filling that void is trying to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. He's desperately trying to stand out as an individual, which is arguably why he's killing people, and he can't get noticed. It's all part of trying to feed this void that is, in a larger sense, the void of the eighties' intense consumer culture and decadence.
[from DVD commentary track] Bret Easton Ellis: Mary Harron's American Psycho is set mostly in pre-crash 1987 but it's a period that almost seems as distant as the Jazz Age or the swinging 1960s London of Austin Powers. The Armani-clad automatons that populate American Psycho go-go 1980s Wall Street wasteland don't realize how much their world sucks (they're like children playing at being lonesome grown-ups) but the movie zones in on Patrick Bateman - one of those anonymous drones - who does, and it details the numbing ritual of his bored, deranged young businessman's daily life. Lost in his psychosis we see him in his empty office watching "Jeopardy!" or listening to Kenny G on his Walkman; on his dates; during his exercise regime to perfect a lean sculpted body; the occasional murder he commits; his facials; dining out with colleagues; watching horror and porn videos; and constantly looking at himself in mirrors (even during sex), which of course, reveals nothing, and the movie - presented in gleaming wide-screen - is a visual representation of his mindset: sleek, cold, airless, a world where everything is ultimately about style. (The production designer Gideon Ponte, deserves special mention for the awesome, glamorous sterility of Bateman's bachelor pad.) But there is also the suggestion (as in Fight Club (1999)) that Bateman's escaping from his life by re-imagining it, which is the only way for him to assert control. And it hints that his "acts" are caused by his reaction to the emptiness and foolishness of his surroundings which inspire his defiance, as well as his inability to hold back his darker impulses, and that the killings and destruction are his only means of aiming for truth.
[official site archived here] Guinevere Turner: It's almost like we watch Patrick Bateman go from his normal life. We see a mounting anxiety in him of being mistaken for other people, of killing people and not getting caught, like the real estate agent. And we get to the scene where he's crying on the phone and confessing to his lawyer what he did, and then his lawyer doesn't even really know who he is. The idea being that he gets so hysterical he's just straight up begging somebody to listen to him confessing to all these crimes, and there's still no reaction, and it's almost like he gives up. And he's right back where he started; he' sitting in the same bar with the same stupid friends talking about what they're going to eat and what they're going to drink, and it's just like, this guy is out there, and there's lots of other guys like him. It's almost like alienation breeds serial killers, everyone's so disconnected, it really doesn't matter, it doesn't matter who you kill, it doesn't matter what you do. We're all just robots. And to me you're supposed to be left with a feeling of emptiness, like fear, nothingness, no one's paying attention, nothing matters.
[from DVD commentary track] Bret Easton Ellis: "the film clarified the themes of the novel. It clarified that the novel was a critique of male behavior" (Charlie Rose interview).
Guinevere Turner: We're not just having a gay old time showing women be killed by a serial killer, we're showing you a character and his panic. He's in permanent panic about where he fits in, whether or not he's cool enough. We're just making so much fun of him. He and his male contemporaries are so weak, so shallow; no one looks good, the women don't look good, the men don't look good, no one looks good. Everyone's completely corrupt and pretty disgusting. The arc that the character has had from the beginning to the end of the movie is that he has become acutely aware of what it is, and he can articulate it to himself; he's in pain and he wants to inflict that pain on everyone, he feels nothing, he doesn't care that people are in pain. But the most important thing he says is that there's no catharsis, and that's what we come to expect conventionally from character and character development; they come to this point and they're changed forever, they are no longer the person that we met, but the disturbing thing about this story, and the way we intended it is that we start just where we left off. It's almost more disturbing now because he knows; he's more aware of what he's doing and he's going to keep doing it anyway. He wanted catharsis, he wanted to get caught, he wanted to have his life changed; to be thrown in jail, to be killed by someone himself, but he just can't, so it's kind of like, he's a mutant; nothing can kill him so he just got that much more detached. Now he knows, and it seems like he's going to act on the fact, that he can do anything; he can kill people and people are going to say they had lunch with him yesterday. Nothing matters, no one's paying attention, and so he might as well, since the only thing that he seems to feel real about or get excited about is killing people, so he might as well keep doing it; it doesn't matter, no one is going to notice. And that's very disturbing.
[from DVD commentary track] Gavin Smith (editor of Film Comment): You can see the film as an extreme comedy of manners, because so much of it is about social status, how people interact, social one upmanship and social anxiety, and a great deal of it is about these transactions that go on between businessmen or between men and women in a rather elevated kind of social world that's removed from day to day reality [...] In a way, it's the introduction of the horror element or the element of the serial killer violence into a gentile, polite world, where whatever the underlying sentiments that people have to one another, which, very true to Reaganism, is very cut throat underneath, that's something that there's a real tradition in social satire going back to Molière; there's always the surface politeness and the surface manners and grace, and underneath, the primary kind of human urges, which are usually sexual. Here, money and sex are interchangeable in a certain kind of way of looking at the 80s, in which money was the erotic object, it was the source of eroticism in the 80s.
American Psycho: From Book to Screen (2005)] Bret Easton Ellis: "The film is a pitch-black comedy of manners about male narcissism" (official site archived here)
David Ansen (critic): "The movie dissects the '80s culture of materialism, narcissism and greed" (quoted here).
(critic): Harron, if anything, is an even more devious provocateur than Ellis was. By treating the book as raw material for an exuberantly perverse exercise in '80s nostalgia, she recasts the go-go years as a template for the casually brainwashing-consumer/fashion/image culture that emerged from them. She has made a movie that is really a parable of today. here] Richard Corliss (critic): "Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner do understand the book, and they want their film to be understood as a period comedy of manners" (official site archived here).
bloody-disgusting.com: "The film reflects our own narcissism, and the shallow American culture it was spawned from" (quoted here).
Mary Harron: I think American Psycho is very feminist. It's easy to believe that because the character is a misogynist, the story is too. But, it was obvious to me there was something going on beneath the horror. For instance, the book shows how the excesses of the 1980s were manifested in warped relations, not only between men and women but also among men. That's where a lot of the humor lies, in poking fun at these peacocks who are so strangely preoccupied with one another. It ends up being an indictment of machismo and misogyny.
[official site archived here]
It is called "Secreit Nicht" and is by the British female ensemble Mediæval Bæbes.
No. All the songs that were used in the film were used legally. The issue of illegality came about in relation to the soundtrack. When the American Psycho: Music From The Controversial Motion Picture was initially released, it included all the songs heard in the film. However, within a few days, it transpired that Koch Records, the publishers of the soundtrack, hadn't obtained the publishing rights to "Hip to Be Square" by Huey Lewis & The News (separate rights needed to be acquired for each song; one for the movie and another for the soundtrack). The CD was immediately recalled (although a few thousand had already sold), and replaced with a new CD without that particular song on it. Over the years, this has built up into a myth that Lewis objected to the use of his song when he saw the film, and demanded that it not be included on the soundtrack. As Mary Harron discusses on her DVD commentary, there is no truth in this, the song is absent purely because of publishing rights.
The American Psycho Enhanced Story Presentation, with highlighted dialogue and over 100 screenshots placed in sync with the story.
The R1 Killer Collector Edition's DVD, released by Lions Gate Home Entertainment in 2005 contains the following special features:
• The unrated version of the film
• A digitally restored picture and a digitally remastered soundtrack available in 5.1 Dolby Digital EX
• Feature length audio commentary with co-writer/director Mary Harron
• Feature length audio commentary with co-writer/actress Guinevere Turner
• 5 deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Mary Harron
• American Psycho: From Book to Screen (2005); a 49-minute "Making-of" documentary made exclusively for the Killer Collector's Edition DVD
• American Psycho: The Pornography of Killing - An Essay by Holly Willis (2005); a 7-minute video essay by cinema academic Holly Willis
• The 80s: Downtown (2005); a 31-minute documentary looking at the culture of 1980s New York
• US Theatrical Trailer and 4 TV Spots
The R2 UK DVD, released by Entertainment in VIdeo in 2000 contains the same deleted scenes, a short featurette on the fashions in the film, cast and crew filmographies, and the UK Theatrical Trailer.
There is very little difference between the two versions of the film. In the R-rated version, during the first threesome, Bateman tells Sabrina to eat Christie's "ass", but in the Unrated version, he tells her to eat Christie's "asshole". There are also a couple of new shots during this scene, totaling 17 seconds of additional material.
There are five deleted scenes on the Killer Collector's Edition DVD.
"People wanna get caught": Bateman meets Kimball by chance in a nightclub and Kimball tells him that in casual situations, people often reveal things about themselves even though they don't realize they are doing it. Also includes a behind-the-scenes interview with Willem Dafoe talking about Mary Harron's directing.
"I'm leaving": Bryce freaks out in a nightclub, tells Bateman he's leaving, jumps off a balcony and runs away. Also includes a behind-the-scenes interview with Justin Theroux about 80s hedonism.
"You want me to floss with it?": Bateman tries to have sex with Evelyn but she is more interested in watching TV. Also includes a behind-the-scenes interview with Reese Witherspoon about sexuality in 1980s America.
"Is it a receptacle tip?": Bateman and Courtney have sex, but in the middle she complains about the type of condom he's wearing. Also includes a behind-the-scenes interview with Samantha Mathis about how the novel is harsher to men than woman.
"Never date a Vassar girl": McDermott complains about a girl he met who refused to give him a blow job and would only give him a hand job with her glove still on.
Yes. Both the US Edition, released in 2007, and the UK 15th Anniversary Edition, released in 2015, contain the same special features as the R1 Killer Collector's Edition DVD, including the uncut version of the film. The deleted scenes and "The 80s: Downtown" are in 1080p.