Bret Easton Ellis is one of the only authors where I’ve read every single book he’s written. Which like, I don’t know what that says about me, except maybe that I started this when I was seventeen, and that I read a lot.
American Psycho is the most impressive book I never want to read again. It is not a pleasant experience, but I’m glad I read it. The part that I remember the most, and the part I appreciated the most was how it went from this really gruesome murder part to an overly serious analysis of Hootie and the Blowfish, and then back to killing. That sort of juxtaposition is what really stuck with me.
I’ve always meant to watch the movie, it’s just taken me a while to get around to it. I’d heard that it was really well done, and not as miserable as you’d expect. It just hasn’t been an easy movie to get around to watching. You have to be in the right mood, in a very specific headspace. Last week when my folks were out of town, and my girlfriend was busy, I watched two movies that no one would agree to watch with me. One was the Backstreet Boys documentary. The other was American Psycho.
The book is really playing with the idea of an unreliable narrator. I was eighteen, and definitely wasn’t reading carefully (I was reading between and in the middle of classes — this might be a miserable book, but it’s still better than chemistry), but I really wasn’t sure what was happening. I wasn’t sure what was real or imagined. Either way, it was a lot, but that ambiguity was important. The movie loses a lot of that. Doing an unreliable narrator in a movie is really fucking hard, and this isn’t really trying. What we see is really happening, and the confusion comes from how other people are reacting to it. That’s an interesting idea, but very different than the book.
I thought it would have a hard time being true to how brutal the book is, because there are limits to the sorts of gore and sexual violence that can be on screen, but it felt fittingly disturbing. It’s really interesting that the movie was directed by a woman. A lot of feminists got very angry about the book, and while I can see why, I also think that it’s critiquing the world that makes Patrick Bateman possible, not condoning his actions, and that there are much better things to be angry about. The way not just Patrick, but basically everyone, treats women in this story is really fucked up, but it’s pretty clear that this is because society is built with really toxic ideas about women. Society in general is pretty fucked up here. It’s a critique of capitalism and consumerism.
The movie is a good companion to the book. If someone asked me if they should read the book first or see the movie I might tell them to skip the whole thing. Or like, start with Rules of Attraction and then maybe keep going. I wouldn’t actually recommend American Psycho. It’s a life choice someone has to get into on their own.