American Psycho is a psychological crime thriller that is a true polymorphism of the cinematic genre, in other words: it can take many forms that become apparent only with close viewing. The movie “American Psycho” was released in 2000 and has a brilliant cast that includes Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto and Willem Dafoe to name a few. This picture is an adaptation of a book by the famous American writer Bret Easton Ellis. The film, in which the main character shows cruelty, mainly to women, was directed by Mary Harron. Here’s the plot and the ending of American Psycho explained; spoilers ahead.
On superficial viewing, one can only see a film that is strange in its grotesqueness and sadism, the point of which is a perverse thrust toward murder and attempts to attract the viewer with scenes of unwarranted cruelty. But “American Psycho” is not so simple at all, and with thorough analysis, it becomes meaningful and even has moral overtones. This article is a deep analysis of the film, which will be helpful especially for those who write their critical essay about the movie. And even if you prefer to pay for research paper, take a few minutes to read and finally understand what’s the big deal about this movie.
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The Movie’s Surprise Element
It comes as a surprise to many viewers when they watch the picture that it is not characterized as a horror or thriller, but as a satirical black comedy, filled with murder and suspense. “Well, where’s the humor?” the question arises after watching it. And the humor is evident in all the episodes, the pretentious strangeness and the unrealistic characters, whose actions sometimes make even less sense than the bloodbath perpetrated by the main character, Patrick Bateman.
The very first shots of American Psycho begin with drops of blood dripping gently on the background of the credits, thus creating the impression of the film as a horror, but in the next shot, we see how those same drops turn out to be ordinary cranberry juice and have nothing to do with gore. It is this play of contrasts that holds the whole movie together, making a complete irony of the stereotypes accepted in society. Attempts to deceive the viewer take the form of an apotheosis in the film’s finale when it becomes unclear whether Bateman’s actions were real or just the rampage of perverted fantasy.
The Revolt Against the Culture of Consumption
The director intended to mock the consumption culture, where outward attributes are placed by people in the first position among the main values of life. Even in the very title “American Psycho” one can see this connection. The nationalistic emphasis on the word “American” symbolizes the pinnacle of Western consumer culture, the stronghold of which the United States is not unreasonably considered to be. The protagonist, in his attempts to escape from a depressing reality, reveals a protest, trying to break the established framework of society and to go beyond it.
Bale’s character’s contempt for consumer culture is best characterized by a room in his apartment that is full of human bodies and has “Die yuppie scum” written with blood on the wall. Yuppie scum is the generation of Wall Street businessmen of the ’80s. Young, rich, impeccably groomed, and well-dressed, they don’t know what it means to struggle for existence and earn their daily bread. “Die yuppie scum” is a graffiti campaign that emerged as a protest against the spread of this way of life and behavior.
In this vein, the movie strongly resembles the sensational thriller Fight Club, where the main character is also a representative of a typical society and strives only for external trappings. In the end, he finally “goes off the rails” and acquires a second self, which seeks to destroy the paradigms of behavior in society.
All of the characters of the movie strive in every way to portray the joy-filled life of a privileged society: constant parties, drug use, and visits to beauty salons. It is important to note here that there is not a single shot in the film where people actually work: they are only having fun, sitting in restaurants, and all conversations are based on discussing the external characteristics of other people.
A cult of hedonism and no moral standards
The main character of Christian Bale stands out most of all in this sense: he always comes to work late, and in the office, he does nothing but listens to music and draw in his notebook.
While trying to get your body in order and somehow stand out from the crowd, the main irony here is that the characters in the movie are not at all different from each other. Even more so: they constantly confuse their names and mistake each other for different people. For example, even Paul Owen, after torturing Bateman, does not recognize him and takes him for another yuppie Marcus Halberstam.
The characters in the film are so caught up in their rosy and carefree world that they do not accept any other reality at all. Bateman, for example, periodically expresses his thoughts and secrets, confesses that he enjoys murder in his leisure time, but his revelations are not noticed at all.
American Psycho Explained: Bateman’s Dual Personality
The central character in the movie constantly vacillates between two identities: a high-paid employee of a prestigious company and a deranged psychopath with a penchant for violence, cannibalism, and necrophilia. Like any high-class person mocked in the film, Patrick is meticulous about his appearance: he exercises regularly, takes great care in his choice of the closet, even little things like a business card or a pen.
Patrick’s most dualistic personality is expressed in his attitudes toward other people and social issues. For example, he criticizes his buddies for making anti-Semitic jokes and is a fierce opponent of racism and economic inequality, but this is just another suit he puts on himself.
Greed and hypocrisy are the main components of the main character’s personality. Patrick has a very peculiar sense of humor, where he sneers at his miserable existence. It is in these rare moments that you can see how Bateman feels about himself. Patrick’s ridiculous sense of humor is the unnoticed cry from his soul, a manifestation of the depression in which he is mired.
With the pronounced dualism of the main character, it is not difficult to notice that he has no individuality as such. This goes for all the other characters of the film, which are only caricatured parodies of each other. Patrick feels completely alien to the world around him and tries to find the most natural model of behavior so as not to stand out among other people: he listens to popular music to imitate the musical taste of everyday people, watches pornography to learn how to make love, rents horror movies to learn how to kill. Patrick’s personality is a composite image of popular culture and an attempt to imitate his social environment.
American Psycho Ending Explained: Reality Or Imagination?
The ending of American Psycho reveals that Patrick Bateman, in an attempt to escape from reality, invented a sadistic universe in which he denied all known morals and social norms.
As you watch the film, you can see how Bateman gradually begins to go nuts. His sadistic tendencies take more and more subtle forms as he tries to escape reality, culminating in the murder of more than seven people he encounters (including an old woman on the street, a police squad, and a janitor). Patrick hastily returns to his office and while crying confesses all the crimes committed to his lawyer named Garrett.
After a candid confession, the protagonist returns to the apartment of Paul Owen, whom he killed earlier, to eliminate the evidence. But to his surprise, it turns out that Paul never lived in that apartment, which becomes the obvious signal that all (or most of) Patrick’s murders are just the rampage of his imagination.
This theory is confirmed by the final scene where Bateman meets his lawyer, to whom he had previously confessed to the murders. Garrett takes all the words about the murders as a joke and bewilderedly reports that Paul Owen is alive.
Let’s consider the arguments that the murders are a figment of his imagination:
- No one notices the blood on the floor when Patrick drags the body bag
- No one comes to the rescue when the victim bangs on neighboring doors and asks for help
- No one hears Patrick running around with a chainsaw turned on
- The bodies of his victims disappear
- A series of murders in the street begins after ATM tells him to feed it a stray cat
- The shooting episode is completely absurd. Patrick shoots at police officers and the car explodes as if fired from a grenade launcher
- He confesses to the murders several times but is not believed. Patrick’s lawyer says that the Paul Allen that Patrick killed is alive.
Now let’s discuss the opinion that the murders are not in the protagonist’s head, but real.
I’ll answer the question right away: if the murders are real, why is the shootout with the cops and the ending so absurd? Patrick’s interpretation of the world is distorted by his inflated ego and his apparent psychosis, as well as his presumably multiple mental illnesses, from narcissistic personality disorder to borderline personality disorder. And of course, he’s a psychopath. When he gets mad, he can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
But ultimately, the goal of the movie is not to give us an explicit answer.
Earlier in the movie, Jared Leto’s character greets the main character by mistake with the name Halberstrom, who works for the same company, has the same job, suit, glasses, and hairstyle. However, everyone we see in Bateman’s office looks like the same person. Unsurprisingly, the identities are mixed up and mistaken throughout the film. The fact that Patrick’s lawyer made the mistake of talking about the living Paul Allen becomes not only believable but also becomes an expression of the general confusion resulting from the loss of identity.
While Patrick tries to fit into society like everyone else by leading an empty lifestyle, he tries to stand out to avoid conforming to what he despises on some level. Bateman leads a double life as an assassin, where he is exempt from the fringe of society. But every self-absorbed yuppie he meets ignores his confessions or thinks he’s joking. No one comes running at the noise of the chainsaw because the people who surround him are self-contained. When Patrick stuffs a corpse in the trunk, people only care what brand of the sleeping bag it is.
In the final scene, Bateman does not achieve catharsis. He is trapped in his own personal hell because he needs the recognition of other yuppies to confirm his identity as a murderer. The lack of recognition of his reality pushes Bateman further toward madness and despair. The film, like the book, ends ambiguously, asking us to examine our distorted perspectives and realities. Like Patrick Bateman, we can be trapped, can crave the approval of others, and deny ourselves the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.
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Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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