Bret Easton Ellis’ second novel was very much of the ’80s, but one of the many clever things Roger Avary’s done with his pulsing movie adaptation is to catch the feel of that decade’s music without slavishly nuzzling obvious nostalgia trends. The underlying score, by indie-flick stalwarts tomandandy (sic), is both inventive and unsettling. Around it are layered songs of a chic, shiny kind of darkness, borrowed from various eras: tone and temperature are more important here than timeliness. Acute hysteria usurps accurate history lessons.
The Cure (are they possibly slithering back into fashion?) rattle through “Six Different Ways”; Blondie (never uncool, despite Debbie Harry’s current tendency to dress in Divine’s cast-offs) coo through the seamless “Sunday Girl”. From the ’60s, Donovan’s “Colours” accompanies the closest the film comes to a normal falling-in-love scene, and there are synthpop burbles from Erasure and Yazoo. The Rapture storm “Out Of The Races And On To The Tracks”, while the sun-baked syrup of “Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band is heroically reinvented. Yet even that re-coding is as nothing next to what Avary’s done with Nilsson’s “Without You”: here it decorates the most memorable suicide in 21st-century cinema. Somehow, if this isn’t too tasteless an observation, you have to feel Badfinger’s Pete Ham would’ve approved.
We could all live without Milla Jovovich’s attempts at singing; likewise Love And Rockets. But the inclusion of Kip Pardue’s “European Vacation” monologue, in character as Victor Ward, scattered across further tomandandy sketchings, is a manic masterstroke. A mini movie in itself, and a brilliant encapsulation of Ellis’ ghoulish humour and satirical hedonism. Avary’s pulled off the barely possible, and nailed it. The film’s polarised opinion, the soundtrack does it justice and does in your resistance. Not pretty, but hugely attractive. It rules.