Though based on a 19th century novel, Declan Donnellan
& Nick Omerod's Bel Ami screens
as a bleakly humorous post-feminist work about a man navigating through the
hidden underworld of women to achieve power. The man in question is Georges Duroy, played by Robert
Pattinson, a penniless veteran who lucks into a journalism career and climbs a
ladder of women to the very top of Paris.
It's appropriate and inspired casting given Pattinson's relevant swoon
factor, especially since he appears to be playing the character as if he's the
best looking moron in France. Whether
this was intentional or not is questionable, given how many of the surrounding
characters describe Georges as "charming" when he is anything but.
Nonetheless, each of the film's central trio of women "“
Clotilde (Christina Ricci), Madeleine (Uma Thurman), and Virginie (an
uncharacteristically over-the-top Kristin Scott Thomas) "“ jump at the chance to
roll in the hay with the hottie village idiot. Georges uses this to his advantage, as these women also
happen to be married to some of Paris's most powerful men, and are capable of
exerting significant influence. This,
besides lovemaking, seems to be his only actual skill, as it is Madeleine who
writes all of Georges' articles and Virginie's crush that keeps him
employed. Bel Ami, in spite of the period dressings, is fast and often more
playful than one would expect.
It's hard to say whether there was any satirical intent in this
adaptation, as the rumblings of political motivations are relegated to the
background of Georges primary desire to have a lot of sex and become rich. The actresses and Pattison's strange,
unaffected performance are what drive the work, even though it's hard to say
what it's really about.