Bret Easton Ellis is a liar.
I know this for a fact because the last time I saw him, at Jason Blum’s house at an early screening of “Paranormal Activity,” he lied to me. I asked him if he was writing, and he shook his head: “Screenplays for horror movies, and I’m drinking a lot. That’s sort of where I’m at, man.”
Like a year later or something his best novel in a while, “Imperial Bedrooms,” comes out, and I remember thinking, That lying bastard.
So is he lying on Twitter when he seems to Tweet a coke delivery and dares to link Kathryn Bigelow’s “hot” appearance to her renown as a filmmaker? When he celebrates the combination of “Klonopin and gin”? As he compulsively flicks one coffee spoon of foamy praise after another at “Silver Linings Playbook”?
First, I don’t think Ellis — whose “American Psycho” and “The Rules of Attraction” film adaptations I worked on as a unit publicist — is any kind of a misogynist, the National Organization for Women’s ludicrous boycott of “American Psycho” way back in the day notwithstanding.
He is, however, a genius satirist, one of those folks who finds a way to say precisely what everyone else might be secretly thinking. That he regularly does this on a public forum such as Twitter as awards season simmers away ensures, as one of his critics recently tweeted, that he remains “relevant.” But it also reinforces the point of view of his most recent work, as well as marketing it.
That point of view is what Ellis distastefully calls “Post Empire.”
I have been rolling around the phrase on my mental tongue since viewing those kooky trailers the team behind the new movie Ellis wrote, “The Canyons,” started showing up to wildly mixed reaction on the web.
This Kickstarter-funded picture, directed by Paul Schrader and produced by Braxton Pope, is tagged in those trailers — one in the style of a Hollywood noir, the other a ‘50s pulp exploitation — as a “Post-Empire Production” and opens with a montage of shuttered L.A. movie palaces. In scene that will break even the most jaded heart, Lindsay Lohan asks a friend if she “even cares about movies anymore?”
I imagine the Empire of Ellis’ memory to have something to do with a time in L.A. when absolutely everyone cared about movies, when feature films held a cultural dominance over TV. This was also a time when women wore Laura Ashley without a hint of irony and men drove Jaguars and production assistants were dispatched to La Scala for to-go orders of chopped salad.
It might have something to do with a time when the Bristol Farms on Doheny was a place called Chasen’s, when Ronald Reagan seemed like a reasonable father figure and when unlikely movies like “Kiss of the Spider Woman” were just starting to win Academy Awards. It was a time when Hollywood kids were just sort of left alone to become Hollywood young adults, for better or for worse.
To the degree that Ellis or his characters seem capable about “caring” for anything through all that psychopharmacology, they ultimately do, and I’ll go out on a limb and say movies and our clubby awards season needs Bret Ellis’ Twitter rants as much as he seems to need to offer them — even if they all might be lies, or more chilling, truths told through the gauzy prism of another era.