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Sumptuous, sensual and scandalous, Bel Ami tries oh-so-hard to make an anti-hero out of Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson. In this latest adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel, veteran theatre directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod make their feature film debuts in stylish, if emotionally lacklustre, fashion.
“Bel Ami” is the nickname of lowly soldier Georges Duroy (Pattinson), who arrives in Paris, penniless, only to be taken under the wing of an older army buddy Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister). Put on staff at a newspaper and introduced into high society, Georges sets about boosting his status by seducing influential wives. The sweet Clotilde (Christina Ricci) and undersexed Mme Rousset (Kristin Scott Thomas) are eager diversions, but it is the intellectual firebrand Madeline (Uma Thurman) who proves the real prize. This brilliant trio of actresses light up the screen, if only they weren’t overshadowed by Pattinson’s relatively feeble performance.
Indeed, this is the perfect film to cure someone of an obsession with “RPatz”. Though he clearly relishes Georges’ Machiavellian antics, he lacks the dramatic depth to pull it off. Endless close ups don’t help, but gorgeous production design and those wonderful women rescue Bel Ami in more ways than one.