Bel Ami (15)

Bel Ami (15)

Robert Pattinson’s efforts outside of the ‘Twilight’ movies have been a mixed bag- dark dramas ‘Little Ashes’ and ‘Remember Me’ were both critical and commercial flops, yet 2011’s ‘Water For Elephants’ was for all intents and purposes well received, even if it did not quite scale the financial heights of his vampire romances. So what can we expect from this, the adaptation of the raunchy 19th Century French novel ‘Bel Ami’?

Pattinson plays Georges Duroy, a former soldier returning to Paris after his service penniless, but brimming with ambition. He discovers quickly that his one asset is his looks and charm, qualities that make him very popular with the women of Paris, and soon sets about seducing a trio of women- young bride Clotilde (Christina Ricci), who provides a way in to high society; newspaper editor’s wife Madeleine (Uma Thurman), who coaches him to success; and older woman Virginie (Kristen Scott Thomas), who seals his position. As his web of manipulation grows, the callous Duroy finds himself going to more extreme lengths to ensure the lifestyle he craves.

Whilst the sex scenes will enthral fans of ‘R-Patz’, there are many missing elements to this adaptation. The hedonism of the time is reduced to costume drama-like parties, where a simple glance and grin from our protagonist is enough to seduce his way to the top. This lack of abandon means you never truly see the amorality of Georges’ character, and the whole process becomes quite trying for the viewer as he simply does the same thing three times repeated (seduce, exploit, abandon, and repeat).

The role gives Pattinson centre stage to truly prove himself as an actor, but sadly he does not rise to the challenge. The dark side of Georges never really comes out, with most of his rants feeling like tantrums. Of the rest of the cast, it is Thurman who rises to the top- a layered and subtle performance that does not rely on her sexuality, unlike Ricci who, while putting in a solid performance, does the ‘come to bed eyes’ stare once too often. Glenister and Meany are as fine as ever as the men who outshine Georges in every way, yet find themselves somehow subordinate to him.

It’s likely to delight his fan base, but ‘Bel Ami’ never really gains momentum in terms of story or performances. It won’t scupper Pattinson’s chances of life after Edward, but it certain won’t help.