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Episode 133 - American Psycho (w/ April Wolfe)


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Poll: Episode 133 - American Psycho (w/ April Wolfe) (29 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "American Psycho" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (22 votes [75.86%])

    Percentage of vote: 75.86%

  2. No (7 votes [24.14%])

    Percentage of vote: 24.14%

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#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 17 December 2017 - 10:53 PM

Film critic and host of the podcast Switchblade Sisters April Wolfe joins Amy this week to discuss Mary Harron’s 2000 film “American Psycho.” They discuss the movie as a dissection of the American male psychosis and consider the equally-weighted feminine reactions throughout. Plus, they talk its initial reception, what the film did for Christian Bale’s career, and its continued relevance as a satire of American culture.

#2 Judas_Priestly

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 09:53 AM

This is a yes vote for me. I admit that toward the beginning of the show I started to get a little impatient with the way Amy and April were describing what the male characters are "really" saying and how it's really the same thing that Bateman is saying, and I was thinking "Oh here we go, another episode where two women talk about how men are basically the worst." But as the discussion went on, I thought about how this film was written by a woman, and directed by another woman, and how it makes sense that female viewers might pick up on subtleties that I as a man would miss. Or as April described it as an instructional film that illustrates how women are sometimes made to feel, it made me realize that perhaps I've just never had to think about things from that angle because as a straight white guy I have the luxury of ignoring it if I want to. This episode, like The Brood, made me want to dig out my DVDs of both films and watch them; and I think I will have to do that very soon.
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#3 Judas_Priestly

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 09:54 AM

Also not to mansplain here, but American Psycho was most definitely a musical on broadway that recently ended its run: https://www.broadway...merican-psycho/
I will always hear you.

#4 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 10:58 AM

I've remained a pretty devoted fan of AMERICAN PSYCHO since its initial release, and I think its success can be attributed almost entirely to Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner. Though I certainly would have been curious to see Cronenberg's take on the novel, I think that this story was in desperate need of the female gaze, and while it doesn't rewrite the themes of Bret Easton Ellis' novel, it does add many new layers to it. It's kind of the perfect film to follow the debate of CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, being another portrait of a new generation of men on their quest to rule the world. It's the thing that makes this period piece seem so relevant still. Harron turned this satire into more of a warning, not just of the ominous presence of our future president, but of the greedy financial hunger that would devour the economy (I'll take this film over both WALL STREET or THE WOLF OF WALL STREET any day), and how the almost quaint predatory behavior in CARNAL KNOWLEDGE would continue to evolve. I don't see another director empathizing with Cara Seymour's prostitute or Chloë Sevigny's secretary. Even as the men of this film get away with every misdeed, there's a constant sense that the women in their lives (a few of them at least) are watching them and seeing them for what they are. Not enough to stop them, but enough to be on to them. I love Mary Harron's films (I SHOT ANDY WARHOL remains the definitive portrait of the artist and his surroundings) and I wish she would return to feature films amidst her successful work in television. I feel that at times she understands Ellis' work even better than he does and she and Turner do as great an adaptation as possible. (by contrast, the recent Broadway musical was a pageant of iconic moments and one liners, desperately in search of context and meaning) I also think this film deserves credit for making Bale a star, for better or worse. He was a fine child and teen actor, but this was the first time I saw a completely different animal in him. Ten years ago I might have softened on this film a bit, but I think it's coming back around to be a pretty essential portrait of a place in time. I think Amy said it perfectly when saying "I used to think this was a period film, now I think it's about the present." AMERICAN PSYCHO gets a YES vote from me.

#5 bleary

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 04:24 PM

By far, this is my favorite documentary about Paul Ryan.

But seriously folks...

It's a soft no for me. Like Lolita, I felt like this is a situation where the film loses something from the novel, which is particularly hard to avoid for a story in which so much happens inside the main character's head. For example, the long chapters about Phil Collins and Genesis make it clear that Bateman actually is psychopathically obsessed with bad 80s music, whereas in the film, as pointed out by Amy and April, it's uncertain whether that's just another mask he's putting on. I do give Turner and Harron credit for keeping the satirical aspects of the novel, and although they definitely made the murders and tortures much more vanilla, I think I'm mostly okay with that. On the one hand, by not showing some of the more disgustingly heinous things he does in the book, it allows the film to sympathize with Bateman more. But on the other hand, I don't think he should be a sympathetic character, and leaving a lot of the violence out works to neuter his malice, for better or worse. I also liked that they tried to keep the ambiguity of the novel with the ending, but it's not entirely successful in my opinion. I blame this predominantly on the general difficulties of doing unreliable narrator stories on film, which again, goes back to the difficulties of adapting any story that spends so much time in a character's mind.

Considering the film separate from the novel, I do think there are good performances here, including Bale's Bateman and Cara Seymour as Christie. Reese Witherspoon is also great as usual, but I would have liked more of her character. I thought Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Jared Leto, and Matt Ross were solid as the generally indistinguishable finance bros. I felt like it was kind of a bummer that Willem Dafoe is essentially just playing a less interesting version of the murder-investigator character he played the year before in Boondock Saints, and I felt like his arc was a little incomplete in this.

I did like the camerawork, particularly in the apartment scene with Leto, and I was surprised to see that Mary Harron hasn't gotten more work doing features after this, though she's had steady work in television.

Overall, I think it's enjoyable, and I think the book is Canon-worthy, but I didn't think this adaptation gives enough that is interesting in its own right to be Canon-worthy.

#6 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 04:51 PM

Soft no for me as well. It's well-made, but something about it makes it fall just a little short of greatness. It's hard to explain, but the movie feels a little too . . . detached? Cerebral? It's a movie I'd hang on a wall and admire from afar, but not the kind that pulls me in and spits me out at the end, if that makes sense. I also don't care for the end-of-podcast comparison to Fight Club, a perhaps equally problematic film adaptation of a difficult book, but one that is made with a lot more verve and passion.

That said, it is a very iconic performance by Bale and carries a lot of interesting themes so I can see an argument for voting yes on American Psycho. It just doesn't quite make the cut for me.

#7 bluesheep4

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 06:13 PM

I think this is the biggest yes I've given since listening to this podcast. Everything single thing about this film was done exactly right, and I have been a fan of this film since I saw it. The first time I watched this, I was total all the way into it, and I still am. I think this movie would have been completely different directed by a man, and because Mary Harron directed it, there's a subtle nuance to everything; there's no glorifying of our male "protagonist" and his friends and like you were saying, the film treats the women like people even when Bateman and his associates don't. The satire is so poignant, and at times really just feels like Mary is straight up making fun of the characters (which I love). I also love the ambiguous twist towards the end that flips it all on its head, and asks was it really happening or is Bateman just so out of touch with reality, as most of the characters are in a way, that he creates a way for him to exercise the power and privilege he has garnered in a more physical way, versus the things you discussed like having expensive food just to buy it etc.

I absolutely love the ending because whether it really happened or not doesn't affect the satire at all, either way, it plays out. If it really happened, it goes to show that he, and anyone like him, could easily get away with it, and nothing matters. Even when he tries to tell people, no one cares and can easily just say no, you're joking. Then if he didn't do it, like I said earlier, its just because his psychosis is so severe that he feels he needs to make up a scenario in his head that he has to take action on his feelings that women and homeless people are less then him, and that they don't matter.

This film is genius in every way, and I'm so glad that we can make room for it in the canon. I think this is one of the best films of this century, maybe even of all time, and it's grossly underrated. This is a HARD YESSS!!!

#8 Judas_Priestly

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 07:37 AM

View Postbluesheep4, on 18 December 2017 - 06:13 PM, said:



I absolutely love the ending because whether it really happened or not doesn't affect the satire at all, either way, it plays out. If it really happened, it goes to show that he, and anyone like him, could easily get away with it, and nothing matters. Even when he tries to tell people, no one cares and can easily just say no, you're joking. Then if he didn't do it, like I said earlier, its just because his psychosis is so severe that he feels he needs to make up a scenario in his head that he has to take action on his feelings that women and homeless people are less then him, and that they don't matter.



Ellis was on Maron, and Maron asked him if Bateman really did any of it. Ellis said "I don't know."
I will always hear you.

#9 Judas_Priestly

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 08:29 AM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 18 December 2017 - 04:51 PM, said:

I also don't care for the end-of-podcast comparison to Fight Club, a perhaps equally problematic film adaptation of a difficult book, but one that is made with a lot more verve and passion.


I felt the same way. Like "Wait, what does Fight Club have to do with anything?" And then I realized that Amy and April consider them both films about masculinity, or just "male-ness" in some way. I actually think Fight Club is the very rare instance of the movie being a little better than the book, but I don't think either one belongs in the canon.
I will always hear you.

#10 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 10:10 AM

View PostJudas_Priestly, on 19 December 2017 - 08:29 AM, said:


I felt the same way. Like "Wait, what does Fight Club have to do with anything?" And then I realized that Amy and April consider them both films about masculinity, or just "male-ness" in some way. I actually think Fight Club is the very rare instance of the movie being a little better than the book, but I don't think either one belongs in the canon.


And to be clear, I'm not referring to either book as "difficult" to suggest that they are bad. I mean it more in the sense of "hard to adapt."

#11 bleary

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 02:31 PM

View PostJudas_Priestly, on 19 December 2017 - 08:29 AM, said:


I felt the same way. Like "Wait, what does Fight Club have to do with anything?" And then I realized that Amy and April consider them both films about masculinity, or just "male-ness" in some way. I actually think Fight Club is the very rare instance of the movie being a little better than the book, but I don't think either one belongs in the canon.


The main comparison I think is the issue of the unreliable narrator. I think Fight Club actually pulls this off reasonably well cinematically, though I never read that book.

#12 mrm1138

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 04:18 PM

I'm a fairly firm no on this because I think the third act really undermines what the rest of the movie had achieved up to that point. Having not read the book, I have no idea if this is just what Turner and Harron had to work with, but the fact of the matter is that I have long hated endings wherein it is revealed that everything we were shown was just within the protagonist's imagination. Because of the scenes in which we are shown events that are clearly delusions (e.g., the ATM demanding Bateman feed it a cat or Bateman’s gunshots causing a police car to explode)—as well as Paul’s death being pretty definitively contradicted in conversation—I could only read this as all of the murders being nothing more than Bateman’s violent fantasies. Perhaps I’m being too literal minded, but I’m of the belief that, if a filmmaker wants to have elements of ambiguity to a film, she/he should layer those in throughout the narrative—much like, say, the aforementioned Fight Club does—rather than jarringly throw them into the final third.

#13 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 04:35 PM

View Postmrm1138, on 19 December 2017 - 04:18 PM, said:

as well as Paul’s death being pretty definitively contradicted in conversation


I thought so too when I first saw the movie (way back in its original theatrical release), but after this re-watch I thought it was very possible that this person was talking about someone they THOUGHT was Paul Allen, but might not have been. Remember, no one seems to get anyone's name right.

#14 hippogriffrider

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 03:29 AM

This is the hardest yes for on this show in a while. I don't normally participate in the forums because other posters make my same points far more eloquently than I can. American Psycho is a really special film for me. It comes down to Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner, who found the exact right pitch, the right satiric tone, and the right amount of gruesome violence. Another (male) director might have focused too much on the body horror or fallen into the Scorsese trap of being Too Cool. But Harron and co do what Kathryn Bigelow does--view/critique masculinity through the female gaze and pick holes at the fragile and often hysterical egos that we men burden ourselves with. The ensemble (special shoutout to Samantha Mathis, my favorite performance) is terrific, the look the film is stylishly cold and unappealing, and the dialogue is just rich.

#15 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 21 December 2017 - 06:58 PM

View PostJudas_Priestly, on 19 December 2017 - 08:29 AM, said:


I felt the same way. Like "Wait, what does Fight Club have to do with anything?" And then I realized that Amy and April consider them both films about masculinity, or just "male-ness" in some way. I actually think Fight Club is the very rare instance of the movie being a little better than the book, but I don't think either one belongs in the canon.

It's worth noting that both books were written by gay men, although Chuck Palahniuk was not public about it and was greatly upset when he was outed and Bret Easton Ellis says he doesn't like people interpreting his work through that.

I voted yes. With all apologies to Man Bites Dog, this is easily the best serial killer satire. The original novel was quite well known, but the film adaptation has managed to displace it and redefine our image of Christian Bale along the way. I can even detect touches of this in the much more po-faced "Shame" from Steve McQueen (not a bad film, but can't compare to this).

#16 Dale Cooper Black®

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Posted 23 December 2017 - 02:50 PM

View PostFictionIsntReal, on 21 December 2017 - 06:58 PM, said:

With all apologies to Man Bites Dog, this is easily the best serial killer satire.


I take it you've never seen The Stepfather.

#17 Dale Cooper Black®

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Posted 23 December 2017 - 04:59 PM

This was a great episode, so thanks for that. I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed this episode, given how lukewarm I am on American Psycho, the movie. (Unlike American Psycho, the book, which I hate with a passion.) This episode inspired me to re-watch the film for the first time in 17 years, something I didn't think would ever happen. Unfortunately I feel the same way now as I did then: lukewarm.

This movie earns extra points for taking a very pointless and nauseating novel, and crafting it into something that resembles genuine satire, but the filmmakers simply are not able to shake off the emptiness at the core of this story. This is not a slam against Mary Harron; I don't think any director could have made this into a great film during that era. Maybe Gaspar Noe. But a Gaspar Noe version of American Psycho would almost certainly be unwatchable.

This version is watchable, but there is something "off" about it. The sound mix is very hit or miss, and the New York in this movie has a sort of candy-like sheen that doesn't seem quite right for the 80s. And everybody's slicked back mullet looks wrong.

And the movie doesn't pay off in any meaningful way. I understand that the point of this movie is that Bateman doesn't suffer any consequences for his actions, but can't we at least be teased with the idea that anything that happens in this movie actually matters? There is a shootout with some cops, but this scene feels like a dream sequence, as does nearly everything that follows. (I realize this ambiguity is inherent to the source material, but it is far more damaging to the film's fragile satirical framework.)

Another commenter here argued that the carnage at the end could not have actually occurred because the lawyer has met with Paul in the interim. Is this a legit takeaway from this movie, or a failure on the filmmakers' part? I always thought that the lawyer was full of shit. These yuppies make all kinds of false claims to puff themselves up; why should the lawyer's claim of meeting Paul in London be taken at face value? Are we really supposed to question the authenticity of Bateman's version of events?

One of the few great ideas in both the book and the movie is that a chainsaw-wielding Bateman could chase a screaming woman through the corridors of an apartment building without arousing the attention of the neighbors. It's a great, dark comment on urban apathy and insensitivity, but if this event was in Bateman's mind--if everything that happens in this movie can be interpreted as a hallucination--then what is the point?

Ultimately, this movie is just a bunch of stuff that happens. There are some great moments (like in the threesome scene, where Bateman is obsessed with his own reflection) but on the whole, this movie is an exercise in banality. It feels like the real story is missing, as though some of the most effective scenes were randomly strung together with a bunch of deleted scenes, with no regard for narrative flow.

(Full disclosure: It's possible that I'm still upset about Ellis's treatment of Alison Poole, protagonist of Jay McInerney's great, underrated Story of My Life.)

#18 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 05:56 PM

View PostDale Cooper Black, on 23 December 2017 - 02:50 PM, said:


I take it you've never seen The Stepfather.

You are correct, I have not.