I have a bias against the rich and wealthy people of America. My family always had money but we were never rich, like most Americans we lived on a budget and we did our best. We had lean times and times that were not so lean. However, as I grew more politically aware and knowledgeable about the world I grew to resent the truly wealthy people. In a lot of ways they are like aliens that walk the Earth and somehow absorb our currency faster than normal Earth humans. Many of them lose touch with what it is to be human and their children are born never knowing the true value of a dollar. These people are scary. The mindset that there will always be more than enough money frees some of them from any regard for human life. They grow socially conservative and guard their money against those who desperately need it. Their concerns become trivial by average standards. This movie is full of these people and it is terrifying.
I’m a huge Christian Bale fan and I have been since I discovered him when he took the role of Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy of movies. He brings everything to a performance even in a bad movie. I’ve since tried to slowly consume all of his filmography bit by bit. I even lingered and watched the Shaft remake because he played one of the villains. He was even great in the Shaft remake, what more do you want from the guy? In this he’s incredibly creepy. He plays a wealthy young man who does something with business in the eighties. He is very successful but something is very, very wrong with him. He conforms to society but it is quickly apparent that he has deep psychological problems and is just going through the motions to cover them up. His speech pattern is very superficial and unnatural, almost always smooth but with a weird rhythm and tone to it. He ocassionally seems to have outbursts of incredible anger but the character he’s yelling at never reacts so you’re left wondering if that was just in his head. It’s a really good portrayal of a serial killer.
The movie lacks any sort of sense most of the time. The surreal atmosphere of the super rich coupled with the insanity of Bale’s character makes for a disjointed, uncomfortable plot structure. Half of the time there’s barely a reason for the next thing to happen and even Bale’s narration isn’t going to help you very much with his motivations. I really gave up trying to figure out exactly what was going on pretty early in the movie. Instead, I sat back and enjoyed the ride while letting little interpretations and theories bounce around in my head. The insane main character is not the only crazy part of the movie. The people around him tend to react very strangely in that they largely don’t react. He’s very strange, the kind of person I would desperately try to avoid at a party or any other engagement once I had met him. Yet, the world around him is permissive and nonchalant about his eccentricity. Maybe they’re afraid to dig deeper and find the madness underneath. When the madness finally does come out it’s like a volcanic eruption and it’s all the scarier.
This movie is very well put together. Unlike a lot of the movies I will have reviewed this month, there was an actual budget behind this one. The camera work and music feel more artistic and that helps add to the pretentious and shallow feeling that I got. The director, Mary Harron, has only directed four films in her career. However, she was also the co-writer for this one (and all her films) which earns her a lot of points in my book. She has worked on two films concerning Andy Warhol which explains some of the weirdness of the movie. Yes, I am aware that the movie is intended as a parody but parody often rings a bit true. The film is visually designed with a minimalist and simple eighties style. There is a lot of black and white and some other expanses of solid colors that just feel empty. She and her friend Guinevere Turner adapted the movie from the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis. Ellis did a lot of true crime research for his novel which I admit I haven’t read. However, I do see that he did a lot of film work as well as novels and obviously his work translated really well into a great movie.
Really, I was surprised by how good this movie was. The atmosphere was creepy, the characters were offputting and every part of it really worked. The actors beside Bale are all really good and put in more subtle performances which happily clashes with Bale’s performance. Even Willem Dafoe puts in a subtle performance and that’s really saying something. I would suggest you checking this out if you can stomach a lot of gore and a little sex.