American Psycho (2000)

Initially, I felt that the irony of Patrick Bateman’s existence made most sense if it were all in his head… but then I realized the greater irony, and the greater social statement, would be that he did do it and no one cared.

Granted, ATM machines don’t read “FEED ME A STRAY CAT”… so there’s always this possibility that some of his experiences are psychotic hallucinations.

However, satire generally bites most when it’s rooted in truth, even if it occasionally wanders off into surreality. The truth is that Bateman walks in social circles where, if he did actually kill these people, there are a variety of reasons no one in his circle would notice, or believe… much less care.

There’s a few hints of this… as when the attorney doesn’t believe him because he thinks the confession was a brilliant joke. When he realizes Bateman isn’t joking, he reacts in a way that suggests that he would prefer not to know any more.

When the realtors selling Paul Allen’s property behave in a manner that suggests they’ve covered up the incident to avoid negative publicity. Exclusive societies can be like that. Note how they insist that Bateman stop asking questions and leave.

Then, of course, there’s the recurring theme that the Vice Presidents, including Bateman, are constantly confused for one another… Roger Ebert observed it best:

It is their uneasy secret that they make enough money to afford to look important, but are not very important. One of the film’s running jokes is that Bateman looks so much like one of his colleagues (Jared Leto) that they are mistaken for each other. (Their faces aren’t really identical, but they occupy empty space in much the same way.)

It is, indeed, a film about the kind of men who project confidence but deep down are horribly insecure. Having designed business cards myself, the irony of the “card envy” that goes on between the VPs was immediately and hilariously apparent to me… Except for the font, the paper and the name, each card is identical in design to the next, and identical in cost. They all have the same title.

It begs the obvious question: How important can these “Vice Presidents” be if there are dozens of them, each one just young enough to suggest not one of them has had any prior professional experience to give substance to their title?

The title “Account Executive” immediately comes to mind. It looks nice on a business card. Occasionally, it makes a prospective client feel important. That’s about it.

It’s not that they can’t afford to have better cards. The very idea that one of them could think of something before the others is devastating to their individual egoes. More than anything else, they have a perverse fascination with the mechanics of posturing. Not once does it seem to occur to Bateman’s peers that, essentially, they and their business cards are all equally worthless.

As maniacal as Bateman seems, one has to marvel that he is constantly analysing the superficiality of his existence, which is to say that he’s more aware of it than any of the other Gordon Gekko wanna-bes. Bateman finally is confronted and crushed by that truth, at the end. It makes more sense, to me, that the murders are real and thus Bateman’s existence is meaningless… than for Bateman’s existence to be real and the film meaningless.

In a way, I’m reminded of the headstrong stupidity of Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) in Godard’s “Breathless”. He talks the talk, as many young adults do, without realizing the implications of his thoughts. It’s only incidental that he manages to kill someone and become as dangerous as he fashions himself to be.

In life, as in this film, “insanity” is a relative term. Every other VP at the firm thinks and talks like Bateman. That they haven’t applied their business philosophy in their personal life is all that differentiates their insanity from his.