Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 300: Double Feature - Copycat (1995) and American Psycho (2000)

Copycat.  R, 2 hr.  Directed by: Jon Amiel.  Release Date: October 27, 1995.  DVD Release Date: April 28, 1998.

This was a BIG milestone for my little project.  300 of the 365 days of this year are done.  When I did the scheduling for October, waaay back in March or April, I realized that I needed to find something that not only paid a little tribute to the fact that today represented my 300th day of movie watching this year (for the project), but that fit within the constraints I had place on the mini-project to happen throughout the month of October.  Basically, I was desperate to find two horror or suspense-thrillers that were good.  Not just good.  Great.

I struggled a lot, and I had a few things scheduled in this slot over the intervening months before the change in plans from having new releases happen on the weekends to happening on Tuesdays made me revisit this months schedule and do some significant rearrangement of the titles.  Finally, I hit upon Copycat, a movie which had escape my notice originally until I saw a fellow movie blogger reference it in passing.  I remembered it being a favorite once upon a time, and so I replaced it with some lame horror film that I ended up putting in some other month.

The strength in Copycat is in its cast.  Strong performers abound in this movie, even in the supporting role, and most give their very best effort.  Harry Connick, Jr., playing a man intent on stalking and murdering Sigourney Weaver's character, is so effective that he leaves me chilled in every scene he's in.  To break into uncharacteristic slang:  that dude is wack, yo.  He was creepy and visibly insane... although I do feel like that about Harry Connick, Jr. even in Will & Grace, so that might not be saying much.

The story is strong, but I always get the impression that someone tried too hard to water it down enough that it couldn't be considered horror.  These guys weren't looking to do a slasher pic, for sure, but they might have recreated something along the lines of Silence of the Lambs.  I've probably mentioned in the past that I have this gobstopping, train wreck-like fascination with all things serial killer, so I got swept into the story line almost as soon as we learn there is indeed a serial killer at work.  I even like the twist that this guy's modus operandi isn't the same each time, and that he switches his whos-who of killer repertoire each time he kills.  Adds a little to the spook factor, I think, since the MO tends to allow law enforcement to find and catch these guys.

If I have a problem with the movie, it's the time lapse between the initial scenes with Harry Connick, Jr. and Sigourney Weaver and the "13 months later" follow up.  It feels too much like no time has passed... I get that they were running out of time, but I would have happily swapped both Holly Hunter's and Dermott Mulroney's interaction with her ex and the big station scenes in favor of the evolution of Weaver's character from a strong woman to a house-bound, fragile thing.

American Psycho.  R, 1 hr. 44 min.  Directed by: Mary Harron.  Release Date: April 14, 2000.  DVD Release Date: September 5, 2000.

American Psycho was the first time I noticed Christian Bale in anything.  I know that he had a career before this movie, but for the life of me, I don't know what it entailed prior to the release of this adaptation of the novel by Bret Easton Ellis.  The release of the novel caused quite a commotion in its time for its violent imagery and sexual content, both of which return in a muted form in the film.  Also like the book, the film's narrative seems to follow the internal conflict within the leading character by using emotional peaks and lows:  in one moment, we'll see the lead character discuss the strengths of the "latest" Huey Lewis & The News release and in the next, murder most foul will be afoot.
Where the movie fails the novel is the ending, where we begin to see that the narrative we've been given isn't quite what it might appear to be.  There's a single scene that suggests this in the film version:  Bateman's entering the apartment of someone he had murdered which he'd been using to stash bodies and finding no bodes.  Signs of painting had happened and no signs of his own work.  The book has several more examples that make you wonder if even Bateman's rampage are machinations of his own mind, and the movie would have been better for it.  The recurring theme of mistaken identity that was present in the movie was supposed to help that along, but without the end details, it mostly makes you think the characters are stupid, or so self-involved they only barely notice the other people in their lives.

But, Christian Bale was outstanding as Patrick Bateman.  He didn't help the monologues about Bateman's day-to-day activities be more interesting, because really, who cares about what the man uses to wash his face, but in those moments when Bateman's mask of sanity begins to crack, few actors could have pulled it off like he did.  I have to admit, there's something about Bale's role here that reminds me of his portrayal of Bruce Wayne, and I can't put my finger on what exactly it is.  It might just be the suits and the appearance of wealth.  It might be that I happen to think that Bruce Wayne is completely nuts.

This movie (and the book) could have been absolutely terrifying, because it's kind of everyone's worst nightmare.  No one wants to think that a serial killer could be like Patrick Bateman.  But the horror of the movie was stunted slightly by the editing (most of Bateman's worst actions are left for the pages of the book) and moreso by the monologue scenes.  There's no rhyme or reason to them.  Sometimes it's a discussion of Bateman's feelings about his friends and colleagues, sometimes it's a lecture about a grooming product, and sometimes we're treated to intelligent discussion about artists of the day. 

It's a bit of an odd romp, but it's also a pretty slick drama.  If you haven't seen it and are in the market for something different, I'd check this out.  If you like this, there are two more Brett Easton Ellis novel adaptations to check out:  The Informers and The Rules of Attraction, both of which borrow some of the characters from this film.