American Psycho is one of those movies that’s really exciting to watch when you’re in New York, because it’s about New York, but not in that overplayed, cliche, the-city-is-another-character type of way. The city is definitely not another character; in fact, it’s a stark, impersonal canvas onto which Patrick Bateman (Bale) paints. With blood, of course. Theoretically, this movie could take place anywhere — he’d be a psycho in any city. But New York makes his psychosis seem that much more dangerous, because he’s getting away with such absurdities in the most vibrant, watched city in the world.
Bateman is basically a shell of a human, which is generally how most serial killers are portrayed. So, nothing new in that realm. But it’s the little details about him that make him such a deranged centerpiece, and make the movie more of a character study than a plot-driven thriller. (It does thrill.) I begrudgingly have to give Bale credit for whatever the hell he did to make Bateman so appealing, though I do wish we found out more about Bateman’s background.
Anyway, his taste in music is probably the most-referenced aspect of this movie, and for a reason — it’s hilarious. And so boring! Bateman is this deranged, murderous devil and yet he’s taken the time to learn about and appreciate adult contemporary music. He’s also a huge foodie, with an affinity for dishes that look and sound utterly pretentious. But my favorite aspect of his wholly unappealing, anal personality is this:
That scene is incredible. It summarizes him and satirizes the pissing-contest world of finance all at once. (I’ve gotta read the book by Bret Easton Ellis, I know.)
Conveniently, that scene also includes a few of the long list of now-incredibly-famous actors that comprise this movie. Justin Theroux, Josh “Home Depot” Lucas, Matt Ross… they’re all sort of proto-versions of who they’d become, even though they’re all playing corporate suits with nonexistent personalities. Theroux, clever as he is, got in with the State; Lucas put his money where his mouth is with voiceover work (and will forever be confused with Patrick Wilson in my head); and and Ross went on to play a higher–stakes closet case (and continues to be one of the most underrated actors of all time).
There are more! Jared Leto also slicks back his hair and dons a pair of suspenders. Reese Witherspoon flips her hair with aplomb as Bateman’s detached fiancee, Evelyn. Chloe Sevigny oozes sad-single-girl woe as Bateman’s extremely fortunate assistant, Jean. And Willem “Wilhelm H. Defoecy” Dafoe really kinds-up his eyes as Detective Kimball, a nice turn to questioning from the line of questionable characters he always seems to be playing. It’s hard not to be distracted by all the recognizable faces, but collectively, they all sell it. They’re all so young — after all, the movie came out 16 years ago. Even the answering machine messages and the existence of the now-defunct 9 train can’t date this movie. It’s a goddamn American classic.