13 thoughts on “American Psycho–Film Adaptation

  1. Angela McCarthy

    Professor Newbury mentioned that the film received accolades because of director, Mary Harron, who added a feminist slant to the movie. Personally, I was revolted by the book and really needed a way to get through the movie. However, after going on a deep dive on the different feminist lenses I could take while watching the film adaptation, I noticed a definite flatness to Bateman’s character that really enhanced the singular plane nature of him. I found that I was paying attention to how the women would look through him — partly because everyone ignores each other in this story but maybe because they had a little more power in seeing through his ruse. In particular, the scene where with Bethany and Chrissy, they seem to be looking past the wackiness of his describing the music, almost as if they are ignoring him or do not care about the words that he is saying. By taking away his power to captivate, Bateman is turned into someone who is not scary, but almost laughable in the way that he shouts into a void. I believe part of this comes from Christian Bale being super monotone and not at all likable.

  2. Alexander Tieberg

    One major difference that I noticed between the book and the film was the fact that Bateman’s inner monologue is only present in a few critical scenes in the movie, but it was omnipresent in the book. The most obvious thing here is that the constant commenting on the brands people were wearing is dominant throughout the book, but absent in the movie. (I mean, if the movie emphasized clothing brands like the book did, it would be absolutely unwatchable.) Just like other commenters have said, Bateman’s consumerism-based drive is somewhat removed from the film, although the focus on eating at luxury restaurants remains. This isn’t to say that the filmmakers meant to deemphasize consumerism, since it is at the core of both the era in which the movie is set and the lifestyle of the characters, but it is clearly less explicit.

    This consumerism is core to Ellis’ satirical treatment of late 80s/early 90s Wall Street. I think that is still something at the center of the film, but it seems like the film focused more on his general insanity rather than the clear satirical elements in the book. The same goes for the omission of the brief, daily Patty Winter’s Show synopses, which was one of the more interesting parts of the novel for me. These shows, like Jenny Jones and Maury, were a strange phenomenon of this era, and I think that could have been a fascinating aspect of the film if it was included as repetitively as it was in the book.

    1. Claire Messersmith

      I was thinking along the lines of Alex’s point, and I wanted to add on that I also thought it was interesting that there was no mention of “The Patty Winters Show.” As I was reading the book, this was a huge signifier for me that there was something off– whether it be mental illness, a progression into the inescapable and unsatisfying world of Bateman, or simply that Bateman’s mentality existed that whole time, but it was becoming more revealed to us throughout the book. For example, in the book, he seemed to really only take interest with the more obscure and bizarre topics– UFOs at first, and by the end it was a talking Cheerio.

      Furthermore, did the “Patty Winters Show” even exist? And maybe it didn’t– and Mary Harron interpreted it this way and did not include it in the movie.

      Another crucial change for me was the difference in the beginning, and building off of that, the difference in Price. I had no idea who the narrator was until Evelyn directly addressed Bateman, and he said “I” in the book– and in the movie, we get taken a long a 4 minute clip of Bateman and his morning routine. There is no question who this movie is about– and this helps frame the narcissism as well.

  3. Kathleen Criscitiello

    In discussing the difference between the book and the film, I would to touch on the morning routine section. In this scene and in general, I think the book does a stronger job of emphasizing the materialism and consumption of Bateman. In the book, Bateman mentions brands such as Toshiba, Sony, Ralph Lauren, Panasonic and Wurlitzer to name just a few. In the scene in the film, the intense focus on specific brands is lost. While you still get a feel for Bateman’s mass consumerism and love of products, I found that the constant name dropping of specific brand names in the book better serves the parody of the rich, Wall Street elite. Instead, the movie scene focuses more on Bateman’s naked and muscular body, hinting at the sexuality and consumption of bodies, which I found to be more graphic (most likely because I was actually seeing it) in the film than the book.

    1. Aidan Cameron

      I agree with Kate’s interpretation of the book as having a stronger emphasis on Bateman’s smaterialistic tendencies. The opening scene of the film adaptation of American Psycho outlines Bateman’s morning routine – one which both the book and film versions populate with stretching, healthy eating and extensive cosmetic preparation. However, the movie version depicts a more functional yet more psychologically disturbed Bateman in this scene, whereas the novel shows him to be more flawed as a character. For one, the written Bateman neglects to floss because he is “too hungover” – a feature the film adaptation omits. Furthermore, he drinks his grapefruit-lemon juice out of a wine glass because the housekeeper forgot to run the dishwasher – an accident which reflects more on her yet diminishes the image of Bateman’s apparently perfect lifestyle.

    2. Colleen Gair

      An aspect of the film that I felt was missing was the feeling of monotony or malaise that was palpable in the book. We talked a little in class on Tuesday about how even Patrick doesn’t want to be living in the world he’s in just as the readers don’t. However, in the movie, though we could see his visible frustration and hear some of his thoughts as he endures the social interactions that are meaningless, the constancy and repetitiveness of it was not there. Granted, perhaps that would have made for a more dull movie. But, even though I didn’t like reading the endless pages of what people were wearing and his friends asking the same questions over and over again, it added a mood to the story and added the element of the thinly veiled nothingness which the characters exist in. So, although I didn’t sympathize with Bateman in the book, I could at least understand/recognize this place of existential dread that he was coming from which felt less present in the movie.

  4. Andrew Michelson

    In the film adaptation, Patrick’s insanity is much more clear than in the book. I’ll talk about this more tomorrow during the presentation, but this comes through very strongly in the chase scene towards the end of the movie. In the book, the chase scene starts with him murdering a saxophone player, and this seems pretty on par for the Patrick we as readers know. In the movie, however, it starts with the ATM telling him to feed it a stray cat — this is clearly a hallucination. This ATM scene does occur in the book, just later; by the time we get there, we already have the idea that Patrick might not be a reliable narrator. In that same scene in the movie, too, the resolution is significantly quicker than the movie, answering our question about his sanity in a matter of minutes at the lunch scene the next day. In the book, however, the chase scene cuts directly to a seven page music review for Huey Lewis and the News. When that ends, Ellis puts Patrick in Courtney’s bed, leaving readers for several more pages in the dark about what truly happened that night. This is just one small example, but overall the book draws Bateman’s believable sanity out for longer and creates more ambiguity about his mental status than the movie does.

    1. Casey O'Neill

      I agree with what Andrew is saying and I noticed as well that the depiction on insanity in Bateman is much more visceral in the film than in the book. One parts in which I also noticed this, a little less aggressively so but still nonetheless was with both sex scenes with the two women. I found it interesting to add the monologues about Whitney Huston and Phil Collins because instead of having the ranting seem like a tangent meant for the author, it was framed more as a way in which Bateman is detached from the scenario he is presented with. Also the addition of his constant back and forth with himself in the mirror also made the first scene especially more obviously comical. This second cinematic choice emphasizes Bateman’s intense narcissistic side which presents as mental instability in thus particular scene.

      1. Tierra Lu

        It was a great choice to have the monologues about the artists before the killing scenes, because it includes an important part of the book and also shows how no one really cares about his intelligence. Bateman has an extensive knowledge about Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, etc, but in movie, we can see that nobody’s interested or impressed. One woman even mocks him for listening to those things. It shows that although Bateman spends all his time not only studying these singers, but also fashion brands and ways to get glowing skin, nobody really cares about those things. Or gives him the attention he wants. His monologues, too, are one of the only things that reveals his insanity to other people, so I think it was great to include it in the movie before he kills people.

        Also, about the hallucination scene near the end of the movie, which I also thought was one of the biggest differences between the book and the film, it made me think if drugs had anything to do with it, with all of it.

  5. Aaron Schwartz

    One of the main changes I saw from the book to the film is the condensation of space and story that gives the film a slightly more entrapping feeling to it. In regards to space, the film shows Patrick much more in his office than it does in the book. Although there are numerous instances of this, one example of this is during the business card scene. While it is written in a restaurant in the book, the film shows it in the office. However, the film maintains that Patrick rarely does any work.I think that by transferring some scenes into the office, the film drives this point home the same way the book does. It seems that maybe because of the film’s run time that they were forced to change some scenes to maintain the book’s themes. A similar thing happens when Patrick takes Jean out to dinner. While the book writes the scene starting in Dorsia, the film only shows the scene at Patrick’s apartment. The film is then allowed to show Partick almost killing Jean in his personal space. Though these changes all increased the terror for me, the film’s less gory take on the story seems to lessen the revulsion. One of the more appalling book’s scenes for me was the vivid description of Patrick murdering a child at the zoo. Not only was the blunt description terrifying, but the murdering of a child seemed to take the story to another level. I’m not sure something like this could take place in a film without completely offending the audience.

  6. Jessie Kuzmicki

    One crucial change I see in the American Psycho film adaption is the representation of Patrick Bateman’s ‘insanity’ in relation to the other characters. In both book and film, we often see Bateman explicitly tell people his murderous actions or fantasies, only to have these shocking confessions completely ignored and disregarded. For example, Patrick tells Evelyn “My need to engage in…homicidal behavior on a massive scale cannot be, um, corrected….” but “as usual, Evelyn misses the essence of what I’m saying” (338). An even clearer example is when Patrick confesses to Harold Carnes: “You don’t seem to understand. You’re not really comprehending any of this…I-killed-Paul-Owen-and-I-liked-it. I can’t make myself any clearer,” only to have Carnes pass it off as a joke and actually say he had lunch with Owen “ten days ago” (388). In the book, I took it to be ambiguous as to whether or not Patrick is actually saying (or doing) these things, or whether it’s all in his head. Moreover, in this latter scene, Carnes is mistaken about Bateman’s identity, calling him “Davis” and “Donaldson;” the possibility he’s mistaken about Paul Owen’s identity as well certainly exists, which allows the reader to entertain the idea that Bateman does indeed commit these murders (388). But the film eliminates the ambiguity by adding the scene where Jean finds Bateman’s calendar filled with drawings of his murder fantasies. Whereas the novel keeps the knowledge of Bateman’s ‘insanity’ “inside,” beneath his charming appearance, within his own conscience—and keeps the reader on the fence about the truth of his narrative—, the movie makes his insanity objectively present and known to Jean, a person outside his own conscience and reality, and also ensures the audience that the murder scenes in the movie were all in Bateman’s imagination.

    1. Anastasia McLain

      What I found most striking in the movie adaption was the change in Jean’s role. In the book, Bateman never tries to kill her and instead even shares a moment of intimacy with her, considering dating her. In the movie however, that scene is not included and is instead replaced with a different scene towards the end – one where Jean finds Bateman’s notebook. To me, the movie used Jean to show the gaze of reality. Although the ending is far more ambiguous in the book, the movie clearly interprets Ellis’ novel’s ending to be that Bateman killed no one and the gruesome, graphic murders were mere fantasies, figments of his imagination. And yet, as Jean flips through his notebook, we are able to see the murders displaced on the pages in graphic detail. At the scene flips back to the moment where Bateman desperately tries to confess to his crimes to his lawyer, who does not even get his name right, we see that Jean is the only one who knows the truth about Bateman. Her role in the movie clearly deviates from the book, and the decision to add the scene with the notebook clearly places her in a pivotal role that is unique to the movie. I wonder however how empowering that is. A part of me was almost disappointed to see her play the role of the clairvoyant woman, who is so attracted to Bateman’s mysterious persona. Although she is able to see the truth, I felt that she was playing a role that is all too familiar in other female roles throughout history, especially in Ancient Greek myths e.g. the Sybils, the Fates, Cassandra. And even in movies such as the Matrix, where the role of the all seeing Oracle is also portrayed by a woman.

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