When in pursuit of power and upward movement within society, it pays not to forget the influence that woman can have on a man’s opinions and status. See how Robert Pattinson takes advantage of this in our review of Bel Ami after the jump.
Based on the 1885 Guy de Maupassant novel of the same, Bel Ami is the story of Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson), a young man from rather humble peasant beginnings who uses the connections and favour of some of the wealthiest and most influential woman in 1890s Paris, to move up the up the class ladder, and better his place in society.
A lucky break sees Georges invited to a dinner party hosted by newspaper editor Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister). At this party he meets three woman who will change his life in the most unimaginable ways. Clotilde de Marelle (Christina Ricci) is a bored, wealthy married woman with whom George starts an affair; Madeleine (Uma Thurman) is the extremely intelligent wife of Charles Forestier, who helps Georges secure a job at the newspaper; while Madame Rousset (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a woman with more connections and more influence on the political scene than most men could ever dream of. Georges uses these woman and their connections to clamber his way to the top of Parisian society.
The film-makers have done a fantastic job re-creating the high society of 1890s Paris. From the beautiful gowns, to the tastefully decorated houses, and the top hats – this is a fully-realised world which the audience is easily drawn into. The film has been shot brilliantly by Stefano Falivene, who brings the carefully created world alive. In particular, light (especially candlelight) is used effectively to help set the mood and highlight the beauty of the setting.
This is by far Robert Pattinson’s best performance, as he manages to successfully portray get the two sides of Georges – he is initially naïve and uncertain, but soon grows to be cocky and full of self-importance. He is the picture of a ladies man, with a darker/wild side, and the ladies do love him. Speaking of the ladies – it was great to see the woefully under-used Christina Ricci on the big-screen again. She appears to not have aged a day, and still has the same charisma and on-screen presence as she did in the late 1990s when she starred in the likes of 200 Cigarettes and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. She gives her character the right mix of minx and class. Uma Thurman is good as the intelligent and rather eccentric Madeline; while Kristin Scott Thomas could have been transported directly from 1890s Paris – she looks the part so perfectly.
While the film is rather entertaining, not a huge amount happens, and the stakes (that are barely existent) are really not very high at all. Although Georges and his antics are amusing, he isn’t the most likeable character, and therefore it’s hard to have any investment in what happens to him. However, despite not being entirely likeable, it is impossible not to admire how he manges to use these women (and their men) to better his place in society.
Overall Bel Ami is an entertaining look into 1890s Parisian society and what it takes to make it in the upper echelons of that world. Solid performances from a good cast and a beautifully constructed world, make for a mostly enjoyable film.
Director: Declan Donnellan & Nick Ormerod
Writer(s): Guy de Maupassant (novel), Rachel Bennette(screenplay)
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci
Runtime: 102 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: May 24th 2012; New Zealand: July 26th 2012; USA: June 8th 2012 (limited).