It is certainly a true statement to say that American Psycho, released in 2000 and directed by Mary Harron, is a bizarre and disturbing movie. It tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street investment banker impeccably played by Christian Bale, who has a penchant for expensive wine, fine dining, Valentino suits, and murdering people in the most bloody and violent ways possible. The film is set in 1987 when the hedonistic world of Wall Street was at its pinnacle. Although there are bar scenes throughout, I chose to focus more on the way in which drinking contributes to a loss of identity and an alternative view of reality, two of the movie’s overarching themes.
Bateman and his colleagues Timothy Bryce, Craig McDermott, and David Van Patten (Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, and Bill Sage) meet almost nightly at Harry’s Bar, where they drink manly cocktails and discuss what restaurant they’ve booked for dinner, despite the fact that they really have no interest in eating. It’s all about the status of the restaurant and the fact that they were able to get in. “I’m not really hungry,” McDermott says, “I just need to have reservations someplace.” And when they do eat, the food items are ridiculous: pasta with fennel and banana, peanut butter soup with smoked duck and mashed squash, and monkfish ragout with violets. Can these dishes even be real? The cocktail drinking and fine dining scenes are juxtaposed with wild club scenes, where a good bit of time is spent in the bathrooms lining up to snort coke in the stalls. Everyone looks the same, talks the same, and obsessively covets the same meaningless things, blending together to the point where they are constantly being mistaken for one another. No one, in fact, seems to know who anyone else is.
Despite the fact that Bateman’s group willingly accepts certain aspects of their homogeneity, they are desperate to be known for who they are and what they do. This is brilliantly displayed in the hyper-focused way in which they attend to every detail about one another’s business cards. “That’s bone. And the lettering is something called Silian Grail… Egg shell, with Roman… Raised lettering, pale nimbus.” Each of these cards is virtually indistinguishable from the other, and they all contain the words “Vice President,” which makes the men’s jobs indistinguishable as well. Yet they become insanely jealous over these imperceptible differences, with Bateman being affected by them the most. It’s Paul Allen’s (Jared Leto) business card that sends Bateman over the edge, along with Allen’s ability to procure a reservation at Dorsia, a feat that no one seems to be able to accomplish. Bateman’s only solution to calming the rage he feels is to murder Paul Allen with an ax in an incredibly violent and bloody scene. This is, of course, only one of the many times Bateman kills in the movie, and even though it’s hotly debated as to whether a portion of his killing spree exists only in his head, we can be fairly certain that some of it is real.
For the most part, the overindulgent world that Bateman lives in is fairly removed from the reality in which most of us find ourselves. Yet there are aspects of its depiction in the movie that make us cringe. The temptation is always there to one up the person next to us, whether we’re sitting in a conference room at work or at a dinner party with friends. And isn’t that temptation magnified when we drink?? Indeed it is. Although Bateman’s behavior descends into madness, a tiny molecule of its impetus exists within all of us. In order to avoid falling into the trap of comparing ourselves to other people, and the subsequent sense of envy that comparison can often cause, we have to maintain our sense of perspective and remain grounded in our own reality. Both of these tasks can become exceedingly difficult to do as our cocktail count increases. For today’s drink, I went purely for the visual. The Bloody Bateman is a riff on a Negroni that uses Cappelletti Vino Apertivo in place of Campari, and Lillet Rouge instead of sweet vermouth. The Cappelletti is wine based, which makes it different from Campari and Aperol, yet it still has the herbal bitterness that the apertivos all seem to share. It’s definitely worth seeking out. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. No garnish. Enjoy!
*Available at Benash Liquors in Cherry Hill, NJ.