Bel Ami film review: Hunk Pattinson is truly feeble

Hunk Pattinson is truly feeble

Chris Tookey


01:25 GMT, 9 March 2012



01:28 GMT, 9 March 2012

Bel Ami (15)

Bel Ami, based on a Guy de Maupassant novel, is a good-looking costume drama set in 1890s France, with a cynical view of male-female relationships.

It will do better than it deserves at the box office thanks to the teen-friendly casting of Robert Pattinson as Georges, a young man on the make.

Twilight star Robert Pattinson plays Georges Duroy in Bel Ami

Twilight star Robert Pattinson plays Georges Duroy in Bel Ami

The film traces his rise to the top of French society through his conquests — a young married woman (Christina Ricci), a society hostess (Uma Thurman), the wife of a newspaper editor (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her daughter (Holliday Grainger).

The film draws decent acting from all four women, especially Thurman. Its weakness lies in Rachel Bennette’s underpowered script and Pattinson’s feeble performance.

There’s an autobiographical side to the novel — de Maupassant was a sex addict who died of syphilis. But Georges is nowhere near likeable enough to make us enjoy his successes, and by the end he’s no more corrupt than he was at the start.

When Thurman says to him: ‘I had no conception of the depths of your emptiness’, I wondered whether she was criticising Georges’ personality or Pattinson’s performance.

Without a discernible character arc and with an actor visibly struggling with the period, the biggest mystery is why first-time film directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod — co-founders of the Cheek By Jowl Theatre Group — were attracted to such flimsy material.

It was done very much better in 1947 by Albert Lewin’s The Private Affairs Of Bel Ami, which starred a dangerously debonair George Sanders.