Sunday 29 July 2012

Bel Ami (2012) - Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod

R-Pattz's love life may have taken a downturn recently, but let's hope it doesn't turn out like this.

Pattinson plays Georges Duroy, a young social-climber in 1890s Paris who sleeps his way to the top with the help of the city's wealthy and influential.  It's a typical story of sexual deviance that's been told on numerous occasions before - from Dorian Gray to Dangerous Liaisons.  Yet the narrative here is flimsy and poorly executed.  It may only be a hundred minutes long but the dull story drags, despite events transpiring far too quickly to make believable sense.  Why is Duroy helped in the first place?  It's never fully explained, whilst his political career in journalism lacks any dramatic power.  His inevitable fall from grace just doesn't fall hard enough.

Sex is at the heart of the film, but Pattinson lacks chemistry with any of the leading ladies.  And what a contemptuous cast of characters Donnellan and Ormerod have depicted - upper-class pompous idiots with too much money to spend on silly affairs.  Christina Ricci's Clotilde is a squealing girlish woman far too easily seduced; Scott-Thomas is breathy, overly needy and pathetic; whilst Uma Thurman plays a deceiving older woman with the voice of a chain smoker. All three, ultimately, border on the psychotic.

However, the plot hinges on Pattinson's Duroy, whose bedroom has a revolving door.  Why do these women fall for him?  Is he really that irresistable?  All he seems to offer is a snarling, goofy grin when what he needs is a good night's sleep to get rid of the bags under his eyes instead of getting his arse out at every opportunity.  Duroy's true cynical nature is revealed at the end - using sex and marriage to gain money, he is no better than the pantomime whores in the film's opening scene.  In playing this role, Pattinson is simply relying on his Twilight reputation rather than developing his craft.

Most crucial of all is the lack of danger and sexual tension that is so necessary in this sort of film.  That, sadly, is the fault of everyone involved.