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Monday, July 26, 2010

American Psycho 2: Shut up, Meg

The relationship between this sequel and its predecessor is flawed. American Psycho 2 would likely be a better film if it weren't for American Psycho. For the record, the 2000 original is one of my favorite films. Out of context, the dialogue is very distinctive. It is dark, narcissistic, edgy, and often hilarious. In context, it creates an atmosphere where Bateman's insanity is indistinguishable from the backdrop of 1980s superficiality.

Very few people involved in the sequal noticeably give a damn about the original. But as "Brian," Robin Dunne delivers his lines like he belongs in a junior version of the American Psycho world. Frankly, I really appreciate that. This film could not have disappointed me, because I had zero expectations. I wish that as long as these films shared a title, more of the writing and acting could have played along.

For instance, Mila Kunis' narrative segments could have bounced between exceedingly blase and seething intensity, as Christian Bale did as Patrick Bateman. Or Kunis could have composed something unique to subtly indicate her mental disturbance. Unfortunately, I kept hearing Meg Griffin's voice from "Family Guy" and responded the way Seth MacFarlane has conditioned me to.

Except Kunis' character can't afford to have a tell, because in order to hide her crimes, she has to blend in as a typical teen (Yeah, teen. Not many college freshmen can order drinks on a date). The most wonderful aspect of American Psycho is that though Bateman can hardly conceal his madness, his slips go unnoticed in a mad world.

Additionally, it is my contention that the violence perpetrated in American Psycho does not occur in the real-life narrative. Rather, these are fantasies had by a man who has no other way to relate to others. Bateman has no real relationships with other people. He works and plays with the same group, but they are certainly not friends. Thus they are reducible to obstacles and entertainment objects. Like most anyone else, his ability to hate others is not proportionate to his knowing them.

Patrick Bateman is a man in a perpetual state of road rage, but rather than honk and curse, he engages in a violent fantasy. The fantasy alone is innocuous, but the confession at the end of the film could indicate the dissatisfaction and loneliness of a man starved for human contact that is not mediated by superficiality and self-centeredness.

American Psycho 2 invalidates the above theorizing by firmly establishing Bateman as a serial killer. But if that were the simple truth, nothing about the first film would be nearly as interesting. Not to say that the sequel isn't entertaining, but it does not really inherit the legacy of the original in the way a sequel ought to.

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