I think this movie deserves to be controversial, but not for the reasons it has. I don't believe it is in any way irresponsible filmmaking - never did i feel the filmmakers were endorsing the behaviour of Patrick Bateman and the society he was a part of (1987 New York Yuppie) - if anything, they too strongly hint to the audience that they are satirising this materialistic world through turning character into charicature. In fact, this movie gives new viciousness to the word "satire."
It is a fascinating movie - absolutely compelling, in fact. Its cartoon-like characters are marvellous to watch, and often it is very funny, though we are constantly reminded that the jokes are at the expense of these obnoxious characters, who in turn are sending up an entire way of life now referred to as "the excesses of the 80's." But through this very specific period-grounding of the film (1987, constantly reinforced through the soundtrack and the fashion victims...badum, ching!) the movie creates a very dark picture of human nature in general, and warns against letting society become like this again, where material worth and surface value are all that matter.
At one point Bateman's girlfriend says to him, "We have to talk." He replies: "You look gorgeous, there's nothing to talk about." This precice bit of dialogue encapsulates the lack of real human interaction in this society. No two characters properly have a conversation in this movie - everyone is constantly performing a monologue at someone else, to satisfy their own whims.
The director described the movie as having dual stories: Bateman's group of "friends" and business associates provide social satire of this vacuous society, and the other story follows the misadventures of Patrick Bateman, Serial Killer by Night. This part of the movie is really no different to any other crime movie, where we follow the criminal. Certainly not as controversial as i had heard, because the filmmakers are constantly trying to make a point.
(spoilers... what i think that point is...)
These two stories are not totally independent, they very much serve each other. The central point of Bateman's being a serial killer is a very dark demonstration of what one does if one loses all contact with other human beings. If you only care about surfaces, and not about anything deeper, then there's no reason not to go out and slaughter people, if this satisfies you. In this way, Bateman is enabled by the society around him (which encourages the worship of surfaces). This is perfectly presented in the final scene of the movie, which may seem not very climactic action-wise, because it is mainly a climax of the unification of these two story lines. No-one will listen to Bateman when he tries to confess his crimes. No-one will hear him, because everyone only cares about themselves and surfaces. The irony of Bateman's uncontrollably going out and killing people at whim is that this then becomes a secret for him, something deep and real, that, perhaps for the first time, he feels emotion over. It is something that goes beyond the usual "where should we make a reservation" or "check out my new business card" chit-chat that is the level this people live on. So when he tries to tell his lawyer this, the lawyer suddenly pretends not to know him.
Identity is a big thing for Patrick Bateman, which explores the issue: if the physical/material is all that matters in this society, what is a human being? At the beginning Bateman tells us he has all the physical attributes of a human being, but on the inside, there's nothing, just an empty shell. This is why Bateman's mentioning "the inside" again in the final scene is significant. Ghostly visual references to Bateman only being an empty shell abound: Bateman's face is constantly shown hidden, distorted through translucent glass.
I think its a movie to see. I saw it again, and liked it a whole heap more the second time. The more you see it, the more of its satire you pick up (not that its subtle, but you laugh at it more).
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