Film review: BEL AMI from Built For Speed

In Bel Ami, Twilight star Robert Pattinson plays a poverty-stricken young man who attempts to climb the social ladder and secure wealth and political power by shagging his way through 1890’s Parisienne high society.  As a toy boy for wealthy women who include Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas, Pattinson begins to worm his way into the ranks of the social elite but threatens to become a monster along the way.

With its name cast and visually impressive recreation of 19th Century Paris, Bel Ami should have been a much better film.  Unfortunately, this adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s novel, which focuses on Pattinson’s sneaky extra-marital shag-fests and unconvincing political machinations, turns into nothing more than a tawdry Belle Époque soap.

The film also suffers from some wooden acting, particularly from Colm Meaney as Scott-Thomas’ pompous, political aspirant husband.  Pattinson’s performance is uneven and his sinister transformation into a selfish swine is a bit too Jekyll and Hide-like. Fans of British TV shows Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes will be amused to see Gene Hunt (Phillip Glenister) hamming it up as Uma’s consumptive husband and Pattinson’s nemesis, Charles Forestier.

The film’s greatest asset is its female characters – particularly Uma – who subvert their socially prescribed roles as trophy-wives to become shrewd political power players in their own right.  Unfortunately even Uma, Christina and Kristin can’t quite save this film from mediocrity.  There was an opportunity for a rollicking, sexually charged historical drama which has been lost here.


Director: Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod

Released: 24 May 2012

Running time: 102 min

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