It’s disappointing to watch a film in which Robert Pattinson does nothing but have sex, yet leaves you thoroughly dissatisfied. Whilst Bel Ami isn’t a bad attempt by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod on their directorial debut, it isn’t particularly awe-inspiring either.
Pattinson play Georges Duroy, a small town boy sleeping his way through the Parisian upper classes in a bid to find success. Along the way he finds his way into the boudoirs of Christina Ricci, Kristen Scott Thomas and an inexplicably husky voiced Uma Thurman, who tells us at the beginning of the film that “the women hold all the power.” Contrary to this statement, by the end of the feature, Georges has conquered all of these women with ease in his power hungry climb to the top. His dalliances lead him to a job as a journalist where the men are less than impressed with his antics. It is clear Georges has no talent, other than in manipulating highly impressionable wives, bored with their respective husbands.
The film, adapted from the 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassant, with its impressive cast, promises a star driven feature. But sadly none of the performances are particularly worth noting. The task of a British accent leaves Christina Ricci sounding more frivolous than she should whilst Robert Pattinson doesn’t seem to have shaken his brooding Twilight persona just yet.
The story itself is one worth telling; the intricacies of 19th Century Paris, from the whores to the bourgeois, but it fails to explore any relationship fully and on the whole the film lacks depth. You find yourself questioning every character’s actions; never fully understanding their motives. Georges’ explanation that his despicable behaviour is due to the fact that he’s been poor all his life just feels unconvincing. The story also becomes rather tiresome rather quickly. By Georges’ fourth tryst and second marriage you find yourself feeling less shocked and appalled by his antics and slightly bored by the whole saga.
But that’s not to say Bel Ami isn’t without some charm. It’s refreshing to watch a period drama that isn’t just another Jane Austen adaptation and there is some amusing dialogue that entertains contemporary audiences. One line springs to mind, in which Kirsten Scott Thomas’ character half-heartedly spurns Georges’ advances mid-prayer exclaiming, “You are trying to seduce me in a church!” And of course the promise of a half-naked Robert Pattinson adding notches to his ever rocking bedpost is enough to get a considerable amount of people into the cinema.