American Psycho

The difficult task of adaptation.

THE ODD BEAUTY to Bret Easton Ellis' controversial, ultraviolent 1991 novel American Psycho is its random, excessive attention to detail, from every last human organ consumed by its yuppie serial killer/narrator to the type of facial gel he would apply for a trip to the video store.


directed by Mary Harron

with Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Chlo렓evigny, and Reese Witherspoon

opens April 14 at Cinerama, Neptune, Pacific Place, and others

With Bateman's chapter-long monologues on '80s cheese-rock icons Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, and Whitney Houston, the book has absolutely no discernable plot, something only authors can get away with. Filmmakers don't have the same freedom—unless they just don't give a shit, like Kubrick, Jarmusch, or Harmony Korine. This is why adapting Psycho to the silver screen is such a daunting task. Director Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) essentially had to choose between two decidedly different routes: (1) produce a three-hour sex-and violence-filled spectacular that truly earns an NC-17 rating; or (2) forget the gore, go heavy on the Huey, and leave 'em laughing.

At first, Harron capably opts for the latter course, centering the film on the rock star riffs and hilariously materialistic dialogue on topics like business card watermarks and the decadent, homoerotic tastes of Yale grads (Bateman's a Harvard man). Her indie-centric cast is smartly assembled, with Christian Bale (Metroland, Velvet Goldmine) nailing the opaque, enigmatic role of Patrick Bateman by evoking a slick yet wooden alpha male who comes across as a hybrid of a young Al "Tron" Gore and Donald Trump (Bateman's obsession in the book).

Election's Reese Witherspoon dutifully annoys the living Christ out of viewers as Bateman's perky-to-a-fault, aristocratic bitch girlfriend, while Jared Leto (Prefontaine) coerces similar levels of audience disdain as Paul Allen—a businessman offed via axe very early in the film. (The character's named Paul Owen in the book, making you wonder if Harron is a closet Seahawk fan seeking artistic revenge for the team's collapse last season.) Disappointing, however, is the failure to cast the hottest woman on earth, Charlize Theron, as Bateman's "aesthetically perfect" mistress Courtney (Samantha Mathis got the part). Rumor has it Theron was busy making Mighty Joe Young instead. Ouch.

Harron's good efforts are somewhat compromised by her eventually resorting to chain-saw massacre scenes and her blunt suggestion that Bateman's killings may all have been a dream. This notion—merely hinted at in the book—is made painfully obvious when the apartment he used as a cadaver warehouse is shown spiffed-up and on the market without the slightest remnant of bloodletting.

Heavy on the Huey, indeed, and Hollywood to its core.

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