Sunday, March 23, 2014

American Psycho


I have had a long conversation with my lawyers regarding Kathie Lee Gifford's appropriation of my original GlamourPuss designs for her cheap and tawdry knock-offs. Unfortunately, I have little recourse in regards to stopping her. My legal friends have suggested that rather than battle Miss Gifford, I simply undercut her with my own moderately priced ready to wear line. As my name is so much more famous than hers, they think I should be able to drive her out of the market in a couple of months. My lawyers are, as I type, are scouting venture capital firms to fund VickiWear , under the Vicki Lester label. VickiWear, soon available at all finer K-Marts, Wal-Marts and Pic-n-Saves, will use the GlamourPuss concept to bring bugle beads and marabou to the masses. I feel that the women of America can use more glitter in their life and, after such success with using Cats as a starting point for the designs, Bob Mackie and I are going to move to other Broadway shows for inspiration. Early concept sketches include lines based on The Phantom of the Opera, Abie’s Irish Rose and Tobacco Road .

I have received an invitation to bring my Sink For Your Supper Concert to Salina, Utah next month for an appearance with the Polygamy Polyphonic, a symphony in which all 47 players are members of the same family. I have been told, given their conservative religious beliefs that I will have to restage the finale. My skirt losing moment is right out and will have to be replaced with some other spectacular staging. I have not yet decided what might fit the moment. Joseph, my manager, is busy researching Mormon entertainments by watching old episodes of Donny and Marie in search of inspiration. Norman, meanwhile, is busy learning his lines for his appearance as Cletus Teazle in the modern trailer park adaptation of The School for Scandal , which is being produced by a studio called Troma of which I had not heard. Therefore, things are quiet here at Chateau Maine.

To keep from drifting into complete stupor, I repaired to the home theater to get the adrenaline flowing and happened across the DVD of Mary Harron’s film adaptation of American Psycho . When the novel, by Brest Easton Ellis, was first published, I assumed that it was a biography of Alfred Hitchcock and was confused for some chapters by the withering social satire on the excesses of the yuppie culture of the 1980s. The novel was attacked viciously in some quarters over its graphic passages, which many found to be gratuitously misogynist. I think those individuals misunderstood the point of the novel. The over the top violence was simply in keeping with the over the top consumer culture that was being skewered - same motivations, different scenarios.

American Psycho is the story of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a yuppie in his late twenties living the charmed life in Manhattan, 1987. He has a job as a vice-president at an investment bank (which does not seem to require him to do any real work), an enormous salary, an even more enormous ego, and moves in a world made up exclusively of others who have too much money, no real problems, and are overly concerned with consumerist superficialities. Patrick, however, has a secret; his bland exterior conceals a deeply disturbed mind that revels in grotesque violence, especially against (but not confined to) women. The movie shows us how his public face and private persona diverge more and more as he descends into madness and makes some telling points about the whole 80s mentality, underscored by a Ronald Reagan press conference cameo, being so soulless that monstrous acts are allowed to flourish.

Bateman and his chums are all empty suits and the movie makes clear that these are not people; they're well manicured, impeccably dressed, interchangeable drones. They have no lives. They have only five star restaurants, designer clothes, upscale household items, the latest pop music, clubs, and drugs. We can't tell the difference between them and neither can they. They're all so obsessed with status and objectification that the presentation of new business cards in their circle is reminiscent of a massed genital display amongst a tribe of baboons, determining who is the alpha male. When Bateman murders one of their circle, there doesn't seem to be any real notice of the disappearance, and the detective hired to find the victim (Willem Dafoe in what amounts to an extended cameo) soon gives up on these individuals with their indistinguishable lives. The women who surround Bateman (Reese Withererspoon as his fiancée, Samantha Mathis as his mistress, Chloe Sevigny as his secretary, Cara Seymour as a prostitute) are just as empty as the men, although for different reasons. They are regarded as objects in this male dominated 'masters of the universe' society and lose themselves in drugs, degradation or meaningless activity.

Christian Bale gives an incredible performance as Bateman. He is able to show the blank exterior and the demons behind the eyes. His Bateman is always on the edge of losing control, and when he does, it slides naturally out of the character he has established. The other actors are not so fortunate, mainly because they have been given very little to do, but both Chloe Sevigny and Reese Witherspoon manage to leave their marks. There was some talk, at one time, of Leonardo DiCaprio playing Bateman. His 'star' persona would have seriously upset the delicate balance of the film. Bale, who has been doing superb work since his debut in Empire of the Sun, remains enough of a non-personality to let us believe in Bateman's reality.

Mary Harron's adaptation of the novel works in some ways and not in others. She is smart enough to recognize that most of the violence should be kept off-screen (there is little on screen violence, mainly suggestions and reactions but they're horrific enough to warrant keeping sensitive viewers away). This is not a slasher flick that revels in its own gore and there's nothing cartoonish about it. She is also smart enough to recognize that the novel is satirical and she keeps that edge, although she doesn't go far enough with it and duller witted viewers are not likely to catch many of the points she's trying to make. She also slips up with the ending, making it so ambiguous that we are unclear as to what is real and what is fever dream. It feels like a bit of a cop-out, as if she's unsure herself.

The film does a good job of showing what can move into the vacuum when a soul is obsessed with the superficial things in life like status, consumer goods, and better tables in finer restaurants. The recreation of the period through the use of style and music works well and underscores the vapidity of the characters and their obliviousness to what's happening to Bateman right in front of their eyes. There's only one major mistake, using a muzak version of a Whitney Houston song rather than the original (I assume over rights problems). They should have rewritten the scene to use some other original 80s piece. Ultimately, however, I can't say that I recommend the film, as it remains hollow and passionless, except for Bale's performance.

The DVD has a wide screen transfer and is the 'unrated' version. (Several shots that were trimmed at the insistence of the MPAA to gain an R have been reinserted). There is no commentary track. Extras include a brief behind the scenes featurette and an interview with Christian Bale talking about the character of Bateman.

Naked Christian Bale. Bloody naked Christian Bale. Christian Bale in shower. Christian Bale in Cerrutti suits. Dog stomping. Portobello mushrooms and baby leeks in a fine raspberry sauce vinaigrette. Homage to  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Gratuitous head in refrigerator. Over zealous Manhattan real estate agent. Video tape returning. Carnivorous ATM. Gratuitous exploding police car.

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