Bel Ami (2012)
Okay, so what was all that about? The Twilight fans must be turning in their coffins about now. Having literally just finished watching Bel Ami, I am left wondering just what the point of it all was. Yes, there was a story (of sorts) but this viewer was left baffled if this is not the first part of the proper story. If this is the story of an ambitious, attractive but destitute man doing everything in his power to become somebody from nobody, then you have to wonder why he even bothered, as the point of his bothering is not made clear by the end of this episode. So he got rich. And then what?......
Nineteenth century Paris is the backdrop for this story of an apparent gigolo with lofty goals that is not too morally impeded to get where he needs to be in order to feel like he has achieved his life's goal. You have to wonder why he sees this as his life's goal as for each new achievement, his life seems that much more miserable for said subsequent philandering. Of course, this could be a salutary lesson that all you need is love and that money is the root of all evil, but as our lead suggests; "if you have never been poor, you wouldn't know."
Our lead (Pattinson) is making a bee-line for every influential woman in Paris, married or otherwise, with the cool and emotionless purpose of seducing them for their money, or information, or access, or all of these things. There are few lengths to which he refuses to stoop and by the time you're twenty minutes into the tale, you could be forgiven for not being too fond of the star of the show.
Pattinson, bless him, is doing everything he can to get away from Twilight, a success vehicle which has brought him millions of fans and this is indeed just as far away from Twilight as The Woman In Black was from Harry Potter. And who can blame him. That initially golden chalice has become something of a derided millstone around the poor chaps' neck ever since, so a period drama (and I use the word 'drama' with as much due care and attention as I am able) would seem to be the perfect vehicle to display his actual acting talents, without the need to 'sparkle'.
He doesn't do bad, but let's not forget what we are comparing this performance with, after all. He displays a much broader range of emotions here than he gets the opportunity to do in his previous features, but with a cast including Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci, he is swimming upstream in a choppy current, but still managing (just) to hold his own. In his scenes with Colm Meaney, however, he is shown up to be completely out of his depth to such an extent that you almost feel embarrassed for him.
With a stirring and authentic soundtrack that heightens the mood of whatever scene it joins in with, some lovely cinematography, an impressive script and wonderful costumery, Bel Ami has an awful lot going for it, but is let down, with the best will in the world, by a lead that just isn't up to scratch. All of the supporting characters are rounded and full to the brim with joie de vivre. It is only Georges that comes off hollow and wooden. Unfortunately, for this project, he commands the most screen time, being present in almost every scene.
I really wanted to be as impressed by Pattinson here as I was by Radcliffe in The Woman In Black. He had failed to excite in Water For Elephants, and this was another chance to show the world his real abilities. If this is an example of them, he should go back to sucking the life out eager young virgins.