Bel Ami Reviews
Sophisticatedly written, prudently characterized and sharply penned, Bel Ami loses very little in its English translation but rather in its far too tame and somewhat hollow layering. Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod fail to capture the requisite weight and significance of the swaggering protagonist's actions, but perhaps that's because the stunning social climber is portrayed by Robert Pattinson,
Left penniless after serving three years in Algeria, Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) is determined to crawl his way out of the Parisian gutter to which he is slumped. Bumping into an old comrade-at-arms turned La Vie Francaise newspaper political editor Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister); Duroy is invited to an intimate upper-middle class dinner and introduced to three women with whom he attempts to entangle with his unyielding powers of sexual persuasion.
Forestier's empowered and candid wife, Madeline (Uma Thurman) quickly declares that she is unlike other women and her interest lies in the prospect of his intellectual accomplishments. The proper wife of newspaper boss Virginie Walters (Kristen Scott Thomas) whom he hopelessly infatuates and the wide-eyed Clotilde de Marelle (Christina Ricci), whose husband's eternal absence is never ending and her young daughters affections towards Duroy or as she names him Bel Ami is genuinely heart-felt.
An ever resourceful and adept manipulator, Duroy uses his cruel gifts to exploit each woman in turn. As the amorous Clotilde supports him both mentally and financially, lovesick Virginie passes insider secrets from her husband's corrupt closed-office meetings and sharp Madeline's writes his prose for his articles. But it is not until Charles Forestier's health fails that Duroy finds opportunity.
Propositioning Madeline, Duroy offers a mutually beneficial marriage that sees him ascends to the prestigious post as social king and the undisputed chief editor of the paper whilst she retains her social station and through him gets to voice her own political prowess, a rarity for women.
But life and marriage is not easy. Discontent to continuously spoon feed the almost illiterate Duroy and let him continue his affairs but denied the same the courtesy, the strong willed Madeline brutally rebuffs his claim to male superiority and blatantly fans the flames of jealousy. Enraged, Duroy revisits old friends orchestrating a plan to discredit Madeline, prove his own worth and secure his position in society.
Will Duroy's greedy aspirations to succeed land him back in the gutter? Which of his women will he hurt, shun or trap? And will any forgive him in the end to find true happiness?
Unlike 1988's Dangerous Liaisons where John Malovich's naturally predatory sexuality drips from every minute expression, Robert Pattinson's obvious self-consciousness translates to little more than a repetitious petulant glare.
Although looking very much the part, culturally and personally Pattinson doesn't have the ability to convincingly capture the confident essence of this character. Like Bel Ami, Pattinson leaves the heavy lifting to his supporting ladies.
Confused accent aside, Thurman is a cold-as-steel standout. Ricci is engaging as the woman who forgives Bel Ami all indiscretions. Thomas's overt doting wonderfully teeters on silly and although in a small role Tena leaves a big impression as a brash and vulgar discarded whore of Bel Ami's early exploits.
The Verdict: With the films weakness residing in its lead, choppy structure and clumsy treatment of its central characters, it finishes lifeless and forced. The chic and ornate production design persistently tries to sweep us away but the befuddled handling of the key elements keeps us grounded in modern sticky cinema sets.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 01/06/2012
This is a flat, dull, badly directed costume drama with an equally flat performance by Pattinson whose only job is to give smoldering glances at women.
The story is about a cad, down on his luck until a chance meeting presents him with a golden opportunity. Pattinson sleepwalks his way through a gauntlet of bedroom scenes with various cast members, as his character proves more and more repulsive.
I found it difficult to identify with, or champion, any of the characters; which in my mind always makes for a lacklustre story. Christina Ricci's character came closest of all to winning me over, but they are all game players in a rather tedious and childish game.
I side with the critics on this one. Pattinson needs more than just a pretty face to carry a film. His weaknesses are heavily exposed by this script, which limply slips right off his shoulders.
Pattinson plays Georges Duroy, a penniless ex-NCO, who seduces and manipulates rich women despite a complete lack of wit or endowments. Besides not showing any of the charisma required by the part, Pattinson's rough features add further hindrance. The role would have suited an actor of refined handsomeness, to make the contrast with Georges personality even more striking. What we get instead is Pattinson's boxer nose, coupled with a flat delivery of his lines. It makes it hard to believe that so many women would find him irresistible
The story follows Duroy meeting in a brothel Forestier, a former comrade. For reasons impossible to understand, Forestier invites him to dinner and ends up offering Georges a job. During this dinner Georges meets three women willing to be manipulated like puppets, despite the fact that they all seem smarter than Georges.
The first is Clotilde is a rich, dizzy married woman, who just wants to be Georges lover at all costs. For their first sexual encounter, Georges invites her to his squalid abode and Clotilde decides to rent an expensive love nest to continue their relationship.
Madeleine is Forestier's wife, played by Thurman. She is an independent, clever woman who ends up marrying Georges, although she had absolutely no reason whatsoever to do so. Their relation is completely inexplicable.
Mme Rousset, played by Scott Thomas, is a middle aged married woman who loses her head for the completely charm-free Georges. The seduction scene that involves the two of them is cringe-inducing.
Finally, a fourth woman also falls for Georges, making the whole movie a sequel of sexual encounters strangely lacking any passion. Not bad for a boy who would hardly get a second glance, but incredibly tedious as a movie plot.