Robert Pattinson is bankable property, being the star of one of the most lucrative teen franchises of modern times, and it would be easy to get cynical about his casting in this new adaptation of the classic Guy de Maupassant novel. But he’s rather good and gives hope that there may be a bright cinematic life for him after Twilight.
Theatre directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod create a bright and convincing vision of Paris at the turn of the century. The costumes, courtesy of designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux, are gorgeous, and the cinematography, more realistic rather than heritage, is superb.
The story follows the sex-filled life of an attractive ex-soldier (Pattinson) who becomes a journalist for a politically powerful paper. This brings many beautiful women to his attention. They are the wives (Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas) of Paris society’s important men (Philip Glenister and Colm Meaney), although one woman seems to mean a little more to him (Christina Ricci) other than empty social climbing.
Plotting does become an issue. The movie often feels clunky and uneven and lacks a satisfying climax. The script contains dialogue that feels like it would be more at home in a stage play than a cinema feature, although the very watchable turns, particularly those from Thurman and newspaper editor Meaney, stop this from becoming too much of a problem.
The film is also frustratingly undecided as to whether our bed-bouncing leading character is supposed to be a loveable rogue or a repugnant antihero.
It’s entertaining and doesn’t ever bore. Some may yearn for a more art-house-ish approach, but this should satisfy most cinemagoers who are after a bit of escapism.
Bel Ami (2012), directed by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, is distributed in the UK by StudioCanal, Certificate 15.