The ambiguous ending of the 2000 film adaption of American Psycho has left many viewers perplexed and unsatisfied. Some people even believe that Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) was merely suffering from delusions, and didn’t actually kill anybody.
This isn’t the writers’ official conclusion, but it is clear that Bateman was indeed a serial killer. While he suffered from mild delusions, he was responsible for killing nearly 40 people, including Paul Allen (Jared Leto). It was not a dream. He really did kill them all.
A lot of psychodramas have these plot endings where all of the protagonists’ narrations and tribulations simply end up being a product of their psychosis. I personally hate when movies go for the “it was all a dream” ending, unless it was based on an actual true story.
While some movies can get away with it, it’s completely hackneyed and beneath the writers. Bret Easton Ellis, the author of the 1991 novel by the same name, is someone who specializes in satire and dark comedy. To insist that “all of it was just a dream” is to blatantly ignore the deep rooted political and social satire that the movie conveyed.
Bateman isn’t just a successful wall street banker who suffered from homicidal hallucinations, he is the poster boy of Corporate America. Bateman stands in contrast to the “rest of us”, working in exclusive, clandestine firms like fictitious Pierce & Pierce.
Subsumed in a culture of competing for who has the most while completely disregarding the rest of the world, Bateman is the epitome of soulless, evil, inhuman corporate lunatics. They care more about their perfect hair styles and the fonts on their business cards than they do about the homeless or human rights. They are smug and arrogant, believing that they are better than the hoi polloi.
Their struggles outside of getting accepted into the most highly sought after restaurants are very few – unless you count trying to suppress the urge to commit cannibalism, rape, dismemberment, decapitation, and mass murder. You know, everything that makes mergers and acquisitions (aka murders and executions) possible.
Bateman and his ilk are the iconic image of society’s ills in America. They represent the gap between the wealthy few and the downtrodden masses. In short, they are the reason the “rest of us” can’t have nice things.
In reality, Bateman wouldn’t have gotten away with murder (at least not THAT many murders), but he would have gotten away with a slew of other morally reprehensible crimes that social activists deem nearly as heinous.
Corporate greed, selfishness, contempt for the poor, willing ignorance to mass genocide, disease, starvation in the world; mocking the underclass, sexism, racism, and of course, deception, fraud, embezzlement, and insider trading.
The satirical point of American Psycho is to illustrate how far wall street bankers can go before they are called out for their crimes. Murder, rape, etc are paralleled with social woes like avarice and self-absorption.
But what shields them from accountability? If anybody else committed these crimes, they’d be thrown away in the stony lonesome, but why not them?
You will notice in the movie that the first few scenes into the story, you are not entirely familiar with who is who. Yuppie bankers are all the same. They don’t care who you are, there is no connectivity between them, no personal relationships, no emotion or sense of community. This is what protects them in our world. They’re just cookie cut rich boys with their hollow luxuries who live in elaborate overpriced apartments and casually fuck prostitutes almost every night.
A ritual most of us would find to be deplorable, yet somehow is idolized by so many in America. The entire movie they confused each other for other people. Bateman’s lawyer even confused Paul Allen completely for somebody else when Bateman confessed to the murders. Paul Allen could not even correctly identify his own executioner. When Bateman was escaping from the police, he took cover in a building that looked identical to Pierce & Pierce but was not the same place.
It’s all cleverly rendered down to illustrate to you how easily it is for white collar criminals to go undetected by the law or society’s moral scrutiny, because their high status and indistinguishable characteristics provide them with a sanctuary far away from responsibility.
The entire ending was to take the white collar crimes overlooked by society and to show that they would have been condoned if they were actual crimes. This is the point of the satire.
After all was said and done, Bateman’s destruction was ignored and swept under the rug as if nobody had even noticed. Why? Because outside of one real-estate agent, nobody cared. This is just a day in the life of a wall st fat cat. You can commit any atrocity you want and people will look the other way.
So I hope this clears any notion that this was some lame plot twist where everything turned out to be a dream. Bateman really was a serial killer.