Bel Ami (15)
Directed by: Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Colm Meaney, Christina Ricci and Uma Thurman
Running Time: 102mins
A chronicle of a young man’s rise to power in Paris via his manipulation of the city’s most influential and wealthy women.
Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) is living in a cockroach infested apartment in Paris, with threadbare clothes and barely no food he has but dreams and ambition to scale the highs of society and have wealth and power.
It is 1890 in Paris, and the rich and powerful mingle with ease while rumors of political unease run rife in places of business and pleasure. Georges, upon his return from serving for France in the Algiers meets his old army friend Rousset (Colm Meaney) who is the editor for a highly regarded French newspaper. It is during a dinner invitation at Rousset’s that Georges hatches his plan to manipulate, scheme and seduce his way to the top of society. But every scheme has a cost and with political intrigue round every corner, Georges plan may collapse and possibly claim his life too…
Bel Ami, which is based on the classic French novel by Guy Maupassant, is a photographic masterpiece to behold on the silver screen. I mention this first as the cinematography is so stunningly beautiful that the viewer practically is transported to the Rue de Garé. The lighting, costume design and even the very set dressings, be they the soft furnishings of a classic French apartment, or the trapping and fixtures of a period newspaper really lift the entire picture to a new level.
It is perhaps just as well since sadly Robert Pattinson moves from one scene to another with neither charisma nor emotion. Indeed, at times it appears that he has only one acting mode, which is “bland.”
Thankfully the supporting cast are completely on form. Colm Meaney is amazing and is completely believable as high society businessman with manipulations of his own. Uma Thurman, Christina Ritchie and Kristin Scott Thomas all play “Georges” love interests and whilst their sex scenes are graphic, they clearly outclass Robert in every scene, in and out of the bedroom.
Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod have created a feature which despite falling flatly with its main lead, still holds the audiences attention. The script at times is witty and also very relevant, even in today’s climate and the viewer can easily identify with the characters, though they may feel little to no sympathy.
Bel Ami, whilst not in the same league as Dangerous Liaisons, is sadly one of those films that entice the audience with top billing acting talent, but puts them in supporting roles and is sadly let down by its male lead.