‘Bel Ami’

Somewhere underneath the garish Victorian-era costumes and obnoxiously dramatic music is an intriguing, erotic story from Guy de Maupassant.  I just didn’t find it. There’s a prevailing sense that this overblown movie could’ve been much more captivating had it been more like an actual tryst — more subtle, more discreet. But alas, I had to watch Robert Pattinson’s lurid sexual affairs with Christina Ricci AND Uma Thurman AND Kristen Scott Thomas portrayed as realistically as how that sounds, which is to say not at all.

Pattinson stars as a destitute soldier who comes to Paris and sleeps around with those three women in order to climb the ranks of the city’s high society. The pacing of how this actually unfolds is quite bizarre. Without any finesse or artfulness, Pattinson jumps from one woman to the next with the narrative just jerking along with him lacking any semblance of a sustained momentum. And in a film that lacked restraint, it is Pattinson that needed to be more expressive: a lot of indulgent shots of Pattinson’s brooding, calculating face does not a good movie make.

As for Thurman, Ricci and Scott, who represented different faces of femininity, their dull roles reduced them to empty characters that only served to propel Pattinson’s central narrative. In a movie about the power behind sexual relations, it is odd that there is a slightly misogynist flavor to it. It is Thurman’s character that has some wits, but it is all expended on a ridiculous political subplot about the invasion of Morocco.

This is a big year that will test whether or not Pattinson will have a successful post-Twilight career especially since he’s also appearing in a Cronenberg film later on, and if this movie is any indication, he still has a lot to prove.

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