A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"If you were any thinner," Stevie tells him, "you wouldn't exist." Trevor Reznik weighs 121 pounds and you wince when you look at him. He is a lonely man, disliked at work, up all night, returning needfully to two women who are kind to him: Stevie, a hooker, and Marie, the waitress at the all-night diner out at the airport. "I haven't slept in a year," he tells Marie.
Christian Bale lost more than 60 pounds to play this role, a fact I share not because you need to know how much weight he lost, but because you need to know that it is indeed Christian Bale. He is so gaunt, his face so hollow, he looks nothing like the actor we're familiar with. There are moments when his appearance even distracts from his performance, because we worry about him. Certainly we believe that the character, Trevor, is at the end of his rope, and I was reminded of Anthony Perkins' work in Orson Welles' "The Trial," another film about a man who finds himself trapped in the vise of the world's madness.
Trevor works as a machinist. There's a guy like him in every union shop, a guy who knows all the rules and works according to them and is a pain in the ass about them. His co-workers think he is strange; maybe he frightens them a little. His boss asks for a urine sample. One day he gets distracted and as a result one of his co-workers loses a hand. The victim, Miller (Michael Ironside) almost seems less upset about the accident than Trevor is. But then Trevor has no reserve, no padding; his nerve endings seem exposed to pain and disappointment.
Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a consolation. They have sex, yes, but that's the least of it. She sees his need. Trevor is reading Dostoyevsky's The Idiot and perhaps there is a parallel between Stevie and Nastassia, Dostoyevsky's heroine, who is drawn to a self-destructive and dangerous man. Leigh has played a lot of prostitutes in her career, but each one is different because she defines them by how they are needed as well as by what they need.