Bret Easton Ellis arrived on the 'brat pack' literary scene at the age of 21 with his debut novel Less Than Zero, a sharp, ironic portrait of rich L.A. slackers. Within a few years, Ellis eclipsed that accomplishment via American Psycho, a raw, incisive, darkly comic foray into the twisted mind and soul of a 1980s Wall Street trader doubling as a serial killer. American Psycho raised Ellis to literary bete noir status, but, now in his mid-30s, he appears to be ready for a more sober appraisal. Hence, the inevitable film documentary, which goes by the marquee-challenged name of This Is Not an Exit-The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Gerald Fox.

Shot on super 16mm in Los Angeles, New York and London, This Is Not an Exit is more a homage than an objective documentary. It spends a good deal of its 80 minutes circling around its subject, who affects a casual, if bemused, look. We see Ellis driving on the freeway, pricing clothes in a department store (he claims he owns only three suits), recalling his childhood (his father was an alcoholic woman-hater) and talking shop at a bar with fellow writers Jay McInerney and Will Self, both of whom seem a bit envious of their colleague's success.

Still smarting apparently from the American Psycho backlash, Ellis denies that he hates women and characterizes his notorious novel as 'not about violence' and 'almost a feminist tract.' In a lighter mode, he jokes that he received 'many, many death threats from women, with their names and addresses.' One senses that, for all his bravado, Ellis would like to change the subject from chainsaws to something less unpleasant.

Filmmaker Fox's somewhat uneven documentary works best when it concentrates on Ellis, but the subject is often eclipsed by those around him. Fox does manage to interview Ellis' high-school teachers, who seem to confirm that he felt alienated. At another point, Ellis seems surprised that his first book sold any copies at all.

The film falters seriously during clumsy, staged performances featuring actors Rachel Weisz of The Mummy fame, an arch Dechen Thurman (Uma's brother) and John Bryan (one-time paramour of Princess Fergie). The film, which gets its title from the last line of American Psycho, winds down with badly shot nighttime footage of Ellis and some raucous pals in a taxi on the way to a book signing. The camera trails Ellis dutifully as he trudges toward his admirers, with no exit doors in sight.

--Ed Kelleher