Bel Ami is based on the 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassan. The story is essentially the rags-to-riches tale of George Duroy who manipulates and seduces his way to the top of Paris high society in the 1890’s. What should be a sweeping, dramatic, passionate affair of a film unfortunately turns out to be much like the portrayal of it’s central character – soulless, bland, dry and detached.
Unfortunately, the majority of the blame must fall on the shoulder’s of former Twilight lead Robert Pattinson who simply put, does not captivate audiences. He’s not an antihero as such, but he’s certainly not a character you like or root for. Pattinson’s performance makes it even harder to care for someone who is already such a bastard. He brings nothing to the party – he’s awkward and especially during the quieter moments, he seems to struggle with the dialogue. This is not entirely his fault – some of the more intimate moments have slightly theatrical wording and it removed me slightly from the sense of reality that the rest of the movie was painting. Pattinson just doesn’t have what it takes to carry this movie – he appears to be nothing more than a dirtier looking version of Edward Cullen with the same range of facial expressions. At least him and Kristen Stewart are a good match in one area.
The three leading ladies are fairly decent, though none have any great chemistry with Pattinson which unfortunately drags anything that they are trying to do down a notch. The most watchable of the three is Christina Ricci who manages to give a her character several dimensions and seems to draw the most compassion from me as a viewer.
On the positive side, it is certainly a decent looking movie and no real criticism can be aimed at the production design and the costumes either. They are all superb. The film captures the period well, even if the combination of muted colours and bland characters adds up to a very dull film in the end. This is not an affair (or a bunch of affairs) to remember.