Bel Ami

Bel Ami

Director: Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci
Distributor: Hopscotch Films
Runtime: 102 mins. Reviewed in May 2012
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong sex scenes

The story of a cad. Based on the story by Guy de Maupassant, and filmed in the 1940s with George Sanders in the title role, this is a film set in La Belle Epoque, Paris in the 1890s.

Georges Du Roy comes from a poor and illiterate family and has just spent five years as a soldier in Algeria. We see him looking in from the outside on the wine, women and song culture of the period. He is envious. However, out he goes to join society and encounters, by chance, a fellow soldier who is now a journalist for a prominent Paris newspaper. He offers Georges an opportunity at a meal at his house. He meets the editor but he also meets three wives – and we know that his intentions are not honourable.

Georges is played by Robert Pattinson, which proves a contemporary difficulty, disengaging his character from Twilight’s Edward. The other difficulty is that Georges is a callow young man (‘empty’ as one of the women will later accuse him). He has a certain charm, a smiling charm, but his self-centred opportunism is not attractive at all. With the help of his benefactor’s wife, Madeleine (Uma Thurman), who dictates his first article, he succeeds at the newspaper but his laziness threatens to lose him his position and income.

In the meantime, he has taken up with one of the wives, Collette (CristinaRicci), bored with her husband and delighted to have an affair, and pay for a love nest with Georges. He charms her young daughter who nicknames him Bel Ami, which is taken up by other characters. When Madeleine’s husband dies, he determines to marry her and does. Her enthusiasm for news research and reporting and the editor’s aim to bring down the government means that Georges is now contributing to the political action in Paris.

But he is treated as a boy. His revenge is to seduce Virginie (Kristin Scott Thomas), the editor’s wife. She becomes besotted by him. He also takes up with Collette again.

When a political situation occurs, which means corruption and exploitation, Madeleine turns against him. In terms of the drama, this is hard to accept as Madeleine is drawn as a strong character with convictions, not likely to enter into easy dalliance or betray her principles.

But Bel Ami is not done yet and the final image is of the smug face of the complete cad who has manipulated his success.

Think in the vein of Dangerous Liaisons and Cheri.

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