Bel Ami stars Robert Pattinson desperately trying to shed his Twlight skin. Here he performs opposite Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristen Scott Thomas. At a guess, it probably would’ve taken Pattinson three seconds to decide he wanted to play the arch seducer and social climber in turn of the 19th century Paris.
Pattinson plays Georges Duroy, a war veteran living in poverty in 1890s Paris. After a night out in a less-than-highbrow club, he meets Monsieur Rousset (Colm Meaney) who offers Georges an insight into Parisian high-society and the accompanying bevvy of bodiced Hollywood hotties.
As Georges quickly climbs the social ladder through the choice bedding of several socially influential women, Bel Ami becomes part Vanity Fair (with Georges a male version of Rebecca Sharp) and part Dorian Grey.
With affairs, gender and social politics, lace and swishing dresses, Bel Ami is a very watchable film. Is Georges a heartless, shrewd social climber? Has he just been powerlessly sucked into this pocket of society to be used as the women’s plaything and puppet? The story’s message and motives are so confused throughout that they end up having to be explicitly spelt out to you in the final minutes.
There’s a lot of jealousy and stamping around the place, mixed with seemingly genuine moments of sentimentality, but it’s never really clear whether he has any genuine feelings for any of the women.
But considering this, the high quality cast still manage to carry it off. Uma Thurman is the brains behind huge journalistic breakthroughs, Christina Ricci as the vulnerable mistress and Kristen Scott Thomas – who often plays such brilliantly strong women –becomes an obsessive, drivelling mess. As for Pattinson; he’s still pale and mysterious and spends a lot of screen time doing that familiar ‘intense angry face’, but he doesn’t glitter in sunlight. I guess every transition has to be eased into.