For Shame, you Psycho!
I read a review that compared Shame to American Psycho…and yeah, I definitely got a Patrick Bateman vibe off of good ol’ Brandon. So I broke it down a little; gotta say, Patrick Batemen is a hell of a lot less depressing (and he is probably insane).
Similarities: People with PROBLEMS. Michael Fassbender’s Brandon is a hollow, shell of a human being filled with complex emotions that he drowns out with an endless succession of frivolous sexual encounters. Patrick Bateman is a corporate yuppie so bored with his existence he escapes into his own delusions where he kills his rivals and prostitutes (or maybe it is real–it is ambiguous…). We only realize his delusions once they are carried out to the extreme; leaving me with this thought: huh, I easily accepted his chainsaw pursuit of an unfortunate prostitute but only started to get alarmed when the ATM prompted Patrick to “Feed me a stray cat.”
New York is seedy, dark and grim. Prostitutes are really easy to come by, in a variety of places. Patrick occupies the ‘80s but with Blondie’s “Rapture” playing in the club Brandon goes to, it is clear he inhabits the same space. Lucky (or in most scenes, unlucky) for Brandon he has a sister that is damaged for the same reason he is—they came from a “bad place.” Patrick Bateman only has the world of the superficial, where somehow his brain no longer wants to play the game: the dance of superficiality, undercutting, and expectations. He has a rich fiancée but cares for her not at all.
Brandon tries to date but utterly fails; his addiction allows him to detach. He is not capable of true intimacy. This is what sticks for me still, in the few weeks since I saw it (well that, and the subway sequences; I am now on the hunt for potential Fassbenders whenever I am on the metro). It was heartbreaking to see how impossible it is for Brandon to form a connection. Both films keep the viewer at a distance; we are invited into their lives to observe for a while and draw our own conclusions.
Differences: The world of Patrick Bateman is entertaining. Watch Patrick as he kills you with a quip, and then literally kills you with an axe as he gives you a history lesson on Sussudio! From the very beginning, we are visiting an alien world, and Patrick serves as our guide to its rules and rituals. Patrick may be an unreliable narrator so we cannot even accept what we see as fact. Brandon’s world is laid bare for us to see: we see all of the blemishes. Brandon’s world is a shambles. A waking nightmare that neither he nor the viewer can escape; toward the end of the movie, I recalled the stray cat scene from American Psycho as a method of momentarily escaping from the misery on screen. There is nothing funny about the way Brandon moves throughout life; on this the film is unflinching.
Conclusion: Brandon, get some help! He may have hit rock bottom a long time ago, but I believe that time can heal him. The first step is seeking that help, though and I can imagine that he feels too much SHAME (har, har) to even admit his activities to a therapist. Unfortunately for dear Patrick, he has completely lost it. A product of an ultra-competitive world that has led him to insanity, whether it is through killing or believing himself to be a killer in his mind.
Even more good news: there is a Tumblr dedicated to the two of them.