Bel Ami - Blu-ray Review

'Duroy, desperate for sex, distracts Forestier from her work. Afterwards Donnellan and Ormerod end scene. They are as obsessed with moving past substance and on to sex as Duroy himself is.'

For a film that has content tailor-made for rich exploration of pertinent themes, Bel Ami ends up being rather empty. Robert Pattinson's Georges Duroy arrives in Paris penniless and proceeds to climb to the top of the social ladder by virtue of manipulation and charm, most notably of beaus Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas. Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod's film seems primed to have plenty to say about societal movement in times of hardship but ends curiously bereft, barely pausing to comment on the notion.

Instead, this adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's novel focuses on the saucy, if politely restrained, romp Duroy engages in. The main focus, somewhat surprisingly, proves to be Ricci's Clotilde de Marelle, married with child yet head of heels for Pattinson's womaniser. The key question, confirmed by the final shot, seems to be one of constantly forbidden love. Can Duroy and de Marelle's relationship survive various hurdles, including the honourable (society's structures, their individual net wealth) and the dishonourable (three marriages between them, come the end, neither to each other)? It's an intriguing relationship, portrayed well, muddied only by an occasional lack of focus and an inability to explore their love beyond the physical.

Elsewhere, Duroy is embroiled in the politics of the time but again Donnellan and Ormerod seem disinterested. Thurman's Madeleine Forestier is the closest they get to a politically savvy main character but a key scene late on shows their duplicitous. Duroy, desperate for sex, distracts Forestier from her work. Forestier deals with him quickly to get back to it. When she does Donnellan and Ormerod end scene. They are as obsessed with moving past substance and on to sex as Duroy himself is.

As the charming lead, captivating from the off, Pattinson has his meta-presence to thank for being perfectly cast. Even those with little knowledge of his outside life will find it convincing that ladies fall over themselves to have him enter their boudoir. Even if you do not find Pattinson as captivating as every other person on Bel Ami's planet seems to it is not a huge stretch to believe that others are sold on his charms.

Indeed, Bel Ami's main pleasure is in watching the central quartet work. Thurman, so lacking in good roles, is joined by Ricci as a rare pleasure to watch, both characters uniquely written as clever, conniving even, in individual ways. Scott Thomas gets the shortest shrift of the three but then, she is the actor least in need of being able to show her metal in properly written roles of some substance.

Donnellan and Ormerod's film could have been decidedly deeper of both heart and subtext but as it is it's a satisfying fancy; a one-night stand with all the lace trimmings.

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