Discuss American Psycho

This movie has aged beautifully. Here we are, years later and it's still watchable and iconic.

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I hear that!

So, indeed, we agree that, while there is less/no ambiguity in the book, there is ambiguity introduced into the film. Perhaps, then, "the book" is what it is, but the movie, while ostensibly claiming to try to adhere to it, added a layer of ambiguity that may actually challenge the story of the book. It's not hard to make a movie that sticks to a book and has no ambiguity as to whether this character did what the book says was done. The ambiguity in the film, then, seems intentional and, for me, more interesting than the regurgitations of an insane killer's mind (of course, I haven't read the book - maybe, if I did, I might appreciate whatever story it was trying to tell).

@DRDMovieMusings said:

So, indeed, we agree that, while there is less/no ambiguity in the book, there is ambiguity introduced into the film.

It has been a very long time since I read the book and I don't have it to hand so my memory is a bit hazy and I can't quote the book. But I am 99.999999% sure that the book is ambiguous. Even more so than the film.

I remember a whole scene where he goes back to the scene of his crimes and there is absolutely no sign of his crimes. And also in the final part of the book there are many paragraphs where his mind is unraveling and he is in clear doubt as to what is real.

There is a possibility I misunderstood it, but as I said before, the nature of art is that it is often made for multiple interpretations. So me and FatDrunkandStupid just have different interpretations.

It has been a very long time since I read the book and I don't have it to hand so my memory is a bit hazy and I can't quote the book. But I am 99.999999% sure that the book is ambiguous. Even more so than the film.

I remember a whole scene where he goes back to the scene of his crimes and there is absolutely no sign of his crimes. And also in the final part of the book there are many paragraphs where his mind is unraveling and he is in clear doubt as to what is real.

Didn't read the book, but that's about how I saw the movie as well. He definitely has killed some people, but what's real and what isn't gets more ambiguous towards the end of the story, as his grip on reality starts to slip. And its made worse by the fact that no one around him is willing or able to accept that he's murderously psychotic.

@JustinJackFlash said:

@DRDMovieMusings said:

So, indeed, we agree that, while there is less/no ambiguity in the book, there is ambiguity introduced into the film.

It has been a very long time since I read the book and I don't have it to hand so my memory is a bit hazy and I can't quote the book. But I am 99.999999% sure that the book is ambiguous. Even more so than the film.

I remember a whole scene where he goes back to the scene of his crimes and there is absolutely no sign of his crimes. And also in the final part of the book there are many paragraphs where his mind is unraveling and he is in clear doubt as to what is real.

There is a possibility I misunderstood it, but as I said before, the nature of art is that it is often made for multiple interpretations. So me and FatDrunkandStupid just have different interpretations.

It is positively fascinating that both the book and the movie appear to lend themselves to this degree of interpretive breadth!

And, all the more important/useful/helpful/stimulating that we have a slick message board here on TMDb on which we can talk about it (I'd say "shameless plug" but I have no direct affiliation/stake in TMDb, just a fan growing in enthusiasm with each post).

@Renovatio said:

This movie has aged beautifully. Here we are, years later and it's still watchable and iconic.

Watchable, iconic, and intriguing across interpretations! Great post, mate.

I just found this interesting quote from Mary Harron which I think clears up what people were talking about above, referring to her regrets about the film's ending:

"One thing I think is a failure on my part is people keep coming out of the film thinking that it’s all a dream, and I never intended that. All I wanted was to be ambiguous in the way that the book was. I think it's a failure of mine in the final scene because I just got the emphasis wrong. I should have left it more open ended. It makes it look like it was all in his head, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not."

It sounds like what she's saying is not that she regretted making the film ambiguous, but that she swayed it too far on the side of it all being in his head. She thought it wasn't ambiguous enough.

Thanks @DRDMovieMusings

I think we're forgetting that Bateman is both psychotic and a complete dork... he's an unreliable narrator, people even make fun of him to his face when they mistake him for someone else... I really think the murders are his self affirming fantasies, which grow increasingly more ridiculous as he loses what little grip he has on reality... ridiculous enough to actually pull one of them off? I don't know...

Isn't the investigation only related to a missing person? Another interchangeable finance guy who could have been mistaken from someone else?

@JustinJackFlash said:

I just found this interesting quote from Mary Harron which I think clears up what people were talking about above, referring to her regrets about the film's ending:

"One thing I think is a failure on my part is people keep coming out of the film thinking that it’s all a dream, and I never intended that. All I wanted was to be ambiguous in the way that the book was. I think it's a failure of mine in the final scene because I just got the emphasis wrong. I should have left it more open ended. It makes it look like it was all in his head, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not."

It sounds like what she's saying is not that she regretted making the film ambiguous, but that she swayed it too far on the side of it all being in his head. She thought it wasn't ambiguous enough.

I don't think its really that ambiguous, at least for the first half or so of the movie. It is one of those movies that requires you to pay attention though.

It's clear that people really are going missing and there's an investigation going on. But because Christian Bale's character superficially is highly successful and respectable, he just gets looked over, despite how odd he is at times and evidence pointing his way.

@JustinJackFlash said:

I just found this interesting quote from Mary Harron which I think clears up what people were talking about above, referring to her regrets about the film's ending:

"One thing I think is a failure on my part is people keep coming out of the film thinking that it’s all a dream, and I never intended that. All I wanted was to be ambiguous in the way that the book was. I think it's a failure of mine in the final scene because I just got the emphasis wrong. I should have left it more open ended. It makes it look like it was all in his head, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not."

It sounds like what she's saying is not that she regretted making the film ambiguous, but that she swayed it too far on the side of it all being in his head. She thought it wasn't ambiguous enough.

Fair enough. But, again, at least she concedes that the movie does make it look like it was "all" in his head. She recognizes she failed the book, and that's fine. Artists can and should recognize if they do bad art. Still, I'd have been just as happy to hear here say "yeah, the book is the book, all due respect to the writer, but I wanted to go in a different direction, tell a shade of a different story." And we'd now be questioning her intended interpretation, rather than her admitted failure to accurately translate the book to film.

There are many clues in the film suggesting that Bateman's aggressions are not acted out in reality. All the way from the bar tender at the beginning oblivious to him shouting 'You're a fúcking ugly bitch! I'm going to stab you to death, and play around with your blood' to the creepy woman at the end who asks him to leave Paul Allen's apartment, which has no evidence of the bloody murders he committed there days earlier.

The book switches to the third person for the last few chapters, as if Bateman's now telling elaborate fictions about himself involving exploding cars. I'm all for ambiguity but even ambiguity has purpose behind it - whether the writer felt that what he'd written was so depraved he wanted to distance himself from it, so added a 'it could be a dream' proviso, or maybe it was intended from the start to show a slowly disintegrating mind in a world gone mad. Whatever the reason, I'd like to know why. Harron clearly wanted to mimic the ambiguity, but without being clear as to why, and I would call that bad artistry (though I love the film no less for it).

"Bad art" is a thing - my thesis discussed it :-)

"Bad art" is a thing - my thesis discussed it :-)

Yep, that's why I mentioned it. Harron is guilty of bad art if she didn't make a clear creative choice.

@DRDMovieMusings said:

Fair enough. But, again, at least she concedes that the movie does make it look like it was "all" in his head. She recognizes she failed the book, and that's fine. Artists can and should recognize if they do bad art.

I think there are other factors at play here. I don't think she made bad art, but I think she thinks she did. I believe that she did intend to translate the books ambiguity and I think she succeeded in doing so. The confusion comes when you factor in the audience response. When you consider that the film has become quite popular for what is quite an anti-mainstream story, a lot of the films viewers wouldn't be versed in the art of film watching like you or I might be. They are more casual viewers who wouldn't necessarily pick up on cues for ambiguity or even be familiar with ambiguity from many of the films they watch. Thus, Harron probably received a lot of feedback from this larger audience giving a large consensus that the film was explicitly saying 100% that it was all in his head.

This kind of feedback could easily have convinced her that she failed in conveying the desired balanced message. I also think that the art should stand for itself, regardless of the artist's doubts. For me, both the film and book convey ambiguity.

great movie... great conversation... lovin' this...