One of the toughest things anyone could ask me is what is my favourite film? Truth be told, it’s so difficult to answer. I like different films for different reasons. The Godfather (parts 1 and 2) are cinematic masterpieces but I couldn’t just put one on at any time and watch one ‘willy nilly’. Pulp Fiction has the most densely convoluted plot and some of the slickest dialogue I’ve ever seen – but again I need to really be in the mood. Christopher Nolan’s Inception feels like an amalgamation of Bond and The Matrix, but not what I would deem an easy watch.
There is one film, above all others, that whatever mood I am in, I can simply put on and watch. That film is Mary Harron’s adaptation of American Psycho. It’s a rather odd pick I admit. What can be so compelling about a guy working on wall street making dinner reservations, shooting cocaine and living an overtly ostentatious lifestyle, whilst harbouring deeply disturbing fantasies about murder and rape? Okay, its pretty damn compelling.
There are a few things which make this film so noteworthy: Firstly it doesn’t follow the usual linear complex of having a protagonist, who we are all supposed have empathy with. Patrick Bateman is a walking parody and some of his lines are utterly hilarious as are his reactions to being outdone by his contemporaries. He is unashamedly emotionless and feels only greed and disgust with the world around him. And there aren’t any redeeming features about any of his friends either, who are equally as vacuous and self-centered. The only exception is Patrick’s secretary Jean but even she admits to being prone to going after ‘unavailable men’ – so hardly an angel. There is not one person in this story who we feel anything for – everyone is basically an asshole. And that’s what is so brilliant. If Love Island was based in New York 30 years ago and was full of yuppies it would be American psycho.
It’s a guilty pleasure without the guilt. The same could be said for the music it’s quite simply a who’s who of cheesy 80s icons. Huey Lewis and the News, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston. The scene where Patrick goes into one of his soliloquies on Whitney Houston’s the greatest love of all, whilst two whores are partaking in lesbian foreplay, is absolutely bonkers. This just isn’t something you would see in many other films and that’s why I love it. It goes against the grain – unashamedly subversive.
Of course, how can I forget the famous credit card scene. Patrick’s frivolous obsession with the most minute details in his colleague’s cards (which to most people would all look the same) is a fantastic piece of cinema – which exposes the ridiculously macho-competitiveness often associated with 1980s Wall Street. Despite it being set in the 80s (and released in 2000) American Psycho has not dated – if anything it has got better with age like a fine wine. Today materialism and inequality are as prominent as they have ever been, for god’s sake Russia has reasserted itself as if this was Regan and the Soviets all over again. So in an age of ‘fake news’ and $600 Yeezies, the relevance of this crazy black comedy has never felt more appropriate than now. There is even a reference to one of Trump’s ex-wives just for good measure.
If you haven’t indulged in this brilliant exploration of psychosis in the human psyche then I suggest strongly that you do. You’ll be shocked and possibly in fits of laughter in equal measure.