Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis reviewed by Liliana Isella.
BEE by Jeff Burton (right) and Imperial Bedrooms cover (left).
Clay, Blair and Julian of Less Than Zero raised writer Bret Easton Ellis to stardom in 1985. Twenty-five years later they’re back in its sequel, Imperial Bedrooms.
It’s almost 2010 and Clay lands at the LAX to let Ellis hijack and fictionalize his Christmas time once again, but not without complaints about how he was portrayed in Less Than Zero (“…because the writer resented that she had turned to me I became the handsome and dazed narrator, incapable of love or kindness”) and in the subsequent movie (“…the book was blunt and had an honesty about it, whereas the movie was just a beautiful lie.”)
If he didn’t notice yet, Clay has excellent reasons to criticize his author also this time: in the first fifteen pages of Imperial Bedrooms he is nothing but a mere instrument in Ellis’s hands to convince Robert Downey Jr. to play Julian in the sequel movie too.
As soon as Ellis is done with his attempts to manipulate Hollywood, Clay can finally start his own. In fact, the excuse for him to be back in Los Angeles is to work on the casting of the last film he wrote, The Listeners.
But, as Raymond Chandler states in the foreword of Imperial Bedrooms, “there is no trap so deadly as the one you set for yourself” ― and, Clay is just one party away from setting his own.
The fall comes through a dramatically gorgeous aspiring actress he meets at Blair and Trent’s home; very soon Clay’s stumbling ego gives her anonymous beauty the power to enforce the delusional fantasy he has of himself.
He identifies her neediness (she wants to be an actress and she wants a part in his movie; she wants to be an actress and she wants a part in his movie; she wants to be an actress and she wants a part in his movie and this is superimportant, ok?!) and he forces his way into it with cheap lies and childish threatens – all to control her feelings.
As a result, he just ends up controlled by her and by the people around them in an improbable twist of murderous events.
Her name is Rain Turner (well, not really, because even her name is fake) and she’s the key to open every Imperial Bedrooms’ secret door.
Her nothingness is everyone’s lust and the pale and unframed canvas on which Ellis performs his impeccable talent, his Pisces empathy and his amusing wittiness.
If Clay doesn’t know anything about Rain (“except how she makes you [him] feel”) because he’s too self-absorbed to even ask her, Ellis doesn’t miss one single shade of the ambition that crucifies her soul and deforms her prettiness.
Rain’s sunless femininity turned into bleeding dust under the golden Hollywood light is so real to be scary.
Rain is the song Bret Easton Ellis dedicates to us, LA-shaped ladies.
To our not very bright brains (“studies have been done”); to our beauty humiliated by the stigma of its expiration date; to our ageless fear of not “making it”; to our anxious chase of unachievable perfection and to our desperate expectations on empty treasure cases. To us, too afraid of anything to ever trust anyone.
She is the deserted beach all our runaways end at, the mirror to our ultimate slavery and Ellis’s gentle way to suggest that alternative chances to gain self-acceptance and good luck might be around.
To ask our writer what these chances are or to simply bitch about the way he portrayed us (just as Clay did earlier), we can always go and meet him in person on his imminent Imperial Bedrooms tour.
Bret Easton Ellis’s warm kindness and genuine humor are usually the real treat of his lectures.
So, as Rain would hysterically text from her iPhone: “Hey Crazy, let’s hang. See ya there. Xo.”
Review by Liliana Isella.
The title Imperial Bedrooms comes from the song Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello.