Bel Ami (2012)

DECLAN DONNELLAN, NICK ORMEROD

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.  /, 2012.  , , .  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  

plays Guy de Maupassant’s enterprising cad in this forgettable adaptation of the novel of the same name.  Released from the army after questionable service on the battlefield, Pattinson arrives in late nineteenth-century Paris with no money but bursting with ambition, getting into good society through his connection with an old army buddy ().  Meeting his friend’s wife () and charming her immediately, Pattinson is soon connected by her to a job for which he is not qualified, then takes up a love affair with , navigating these manipulations carefully but, thanks to his ability to swindle everyone with his pretty face, gets even further ahead when things blow up in his face.  The jobs he doesn’t deserve get better, the women he uses (he follows Ricci with ) get nothing back, and Paris is scandalized but not surprised by any of it.  A film with so much potential should really be much more impressive than this one is, particularly given the cast and how lovely it looks, but directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod have little feel for de Maupassant’s ironic humour.  Pattinson, without a doubt a talented actor, is too sincere and serious for the role of a roue who cons his betters with little more than a flash in his eye (a flash which the earnest Pattinson does not possess).  Thurman gives one of her finest performances in the richest of the films’ female roles, navigating between her character’s triumph and degradation with expert charisma.

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