HomeOur ObsessionsReservation at Dorsia: The best and worst Bret Easton Ellis adaptations

Reservation at Dorsia: The best and worst Bret Easton Ellis adaptations

Here are six adaptations of Bret Easton Ellis’s work ranked from worst to best to remind us what happens when a story is done badly or tremendously.

Reservation at Dorsia: The best and worst Bret Easton Ellis adaptations

Replenish your coke stash and wash your room with neon, because a Less Than Zero TV movie is in the works at Fox. The beloved Bret Easton Ellis novel (that all your coolest buds probably carry with them at all times) was originally released in 1985 and spawned a subsequent feature in 1987. Now the story will be adapted once more by writer Craig Wright (Lost) who will also executive-produce.

Here’s hoping they manage to maintain the book’s voracious nihilism and caustic commentary on the decadence of rich LA kids surviving on a diet of nose candy and ego stroking. Named after the Elvis Costello song, the story follows a college freshman who returns home for Christmas to spend time with his ex-girlfriend and a buddy struggling to deal with his spiralling addiction issues.

We trust everyone involved will do right by the story, the many fans of the original novel, and by Ellis himself who isn’t shy about speaking out as and when someone doesn’t do his work justice. Hopefully the new adaptation won’t join the slush pile of shame in doing it a great disservice. Here are six adaptations of the controversial writer’s work, ranked from worst to best so we can all be reminded of what happens when a story is done badly or tremendously.

6. American Psycho II: An All American Girl (2002)

Though the film isn’t a direct adaptation of any of Ellis’s work, it’s clear they’re leaning on the infamy of his story (and of Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation of it) with which to milk poor bastard film fans of their hard-earned cash.

Thankfully the movie – starring Mila Kunis (Black Swan) as a young criminology student who turns psycho after escaping the clutches of the now-dead Patrick Bateman (or something equally as stupid, we’re sure) – was rejected by fans who immediately recognized it for the cynical cash grab it truly is.

5. The Informers (2009)

With a solid cast including Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Winona Ryder (Stranger Things), Kim Basinger (Batman), and Amber Heard (The Rum Diary), you’d be perfectly reasonable for thinking Gregor Jordan’s adaptation of Ellis’s 1994 novel might’ve turned out okay.

However, every major star is absolutely wasted in this disaster of a movie as it fails to utilize Ellis’s specific tone and humor. The novelist even co-wrote the screenplay, for goodness sake! Yet this is the dreck that came of it.

Speaking of why the film (which followed a slew of debauched characters early 80s LA) was such a failure, Ellis reportedly commented, “It was very distressing to see the cuts of this movie and realize that all the laughs were gone. I think Gregor was looking at it as something else. I think we had this miscommunication during pre-production that it’s not supposed to be played like an Australian soap opera.”

4. Less Than Zero (1987)

While this film is fun enough to return to solely on the basis of being a timehop into 80s neon delirium, Marek Kanievska’s adaptation is definitely not fun for fans of Ellis’s original novel to endure. Starring Andrew McCarthy (Pretty in Pink), Jami Gertz (The Lost Boys), and Robert Downey, Jr. (who is genuinely wonderful in the movie), Less Than Zero is a convoluted, disordered mess that lacks any of the heart (or the dialogue) of the book.

Clearly the film was made off the back of Joel Schumacher’s St. Elmo’s Fire (which touches upon arguably similar themes and also stars McCarthy) and it nearly abandons the source material completely.

3. Glitterati (2002 . . . kinda)

Sadly this movie has still never seen the full light of day, but we’ll still celebrate it regardless. You may remember an exhausting four-minute scene in the middle of Rules of Attraction in which promiscuous scumbag Victor Ward (Kip Pardue) goes on a whirlwind tour of debauchery across Europe.

Director Roger Avary (Killing Zoe) and Pardue (Driven) actually spent fifteen days together in Europe and shot seventy hours of sheer depravity while the actor stayed in character the entire time. Unless you’re a personal friend of the director, you’ll likely never be able to see the mythical masterpiece that Avary reportedly called “ethically questionable”.

2. American Psycho (2000)

Though Ellis has gone on record as not being a fan of Harron’s adaptation, the film nonetheless digs deep into the story to harness its full satirical edge. Offering a witty take on toxic masculinity against a backdrop of 80s excess, the film is a standalone masterpiece even if it isn’t exactly the most faithful adaptation of the book possible.

Regardless of what Harron (The Moth Diaries) did with the novel and the manner with which she explored its themes, Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) still manages to perfectly execute (pun intended) the cold, narcissistic, and impulsive horror of Patrick Bateman in a way that’s hard to imagine any other actor coming close to.  

1. The Rules of Attraction (2002)

Avary’s stylistic take on Ellis’s acerbic college drama is packed full of pathos, humor, and innovative transformations of an often non-linear story.

Boasting charming performances from James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale), Jessica Biel (The Illusionist), and Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries), and a soundtrack that remains cherished among music fans, the film offers an abundance of savvy solutions to Ellis’s most unfilmable moments while capturing the sensibilities of the book almost perfectly.

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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer who occasionally moonlights as a hapless punk musician. She’s written about pop culture for websites like Bustle, i-D, and The Mary Sue, and is the co-creator of Clarissa Explains F*ck All. She likes watching horror movies with her cat and eating too much sugar.

amy@filmdaily.co

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