Robert Pattinson stars as Georges Duroy in the adaptation of Guy de Maupassant‘s 1885 novel Bel Ami. Set in nineteenth century France, the film follows Duroy’s corrupt rise to journalistic fame as he uses the knowledgeable power of his mistresses to his advantage.
Distancing himself from the teen Twilight franchise, Robert Pattinson has recently chosen some varied projects. Here he plays a budding journalist who uses his sexual conquests to his advantage. Clawing his way to the top via the information and creative spirit garnered from the women he sleeps with (including Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas), he soon poses a threat to those around him. As his addictions intensify he finds it difficult to accept adultery when he discovers that his wife is guilty of the act.
In a tale where everyone sleeps with everyone else it’s hard to lay blame at any one person’s feet. Duroy however is so amoral that it is difficult to feel any sympathy toward the character. Bel Ami skips vital moments (including his marriage to Thurman’s Madeleine – a marriage that takes place after a clunky proposal over her recently deceased husband’s body) and often feels ill-explained. As such, the resulting film is directionless and, if possible, storyless. Nobody learns from their mistakes and few feel guilty for their trespasses. Just when you think Duroy has learnt his lesson he’s off attempting to organise new liaisons.
Such inexplicable actions make for a frustrating watch – for all of its supposed risqué content it basically present meagre sex scenes that are interspersed with some period dancing and furtive stares. Vague and dispirited, Bel Ami fails to engage any real storyline and, as a result, tends to stagger from one scene to he next. A disappointing output from directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, Bel Ami feels dated and unnecessary.