Whose idea was it to cast Robert Pattinson as Georges Duroy in the upcoming adaptation of a Maupassant’s classic Bel Ami? I don’t know much about the actor, and I am not the kind of critic to garner unnecessary preconceptions and prejudices about a person just because he acted in a bunch of blockbuster vampire films (I am into zombies, sorry), but really: there was no one else in Hollywood to do this?
I will begin by saying that the set design, music, costumes and atmosphere are the best part of Bel Ami, which isn’t saying much, and isn’t incentive enough for buying a movie ticket, but still a pleasure to observe. It’s also nice to see, among the screams of how ‘morally bankrupt’ modern society is, that it wasn’t all that in the 19th century Paris either, even though the film is surprisingly tame, given its unbounded erotic possibilities and such a heartthrob at the center of it all.
But back to Robert Pattinson. Is it just me, or does his Georges Duroy look like he is going to throw up or have an orgasm or both – throughout the whole movie? I am fully aware I am risking my life writing this but there is no avoiding it: the dude looks likes he smells something funny, a crooked smirk never leaving his face, his eyes half-open, his brow covered in tiny dots of sweat, all the time – are all those signs of good acting these days? I don’t know.
Georges Duroy tries to make it in 1890 Paris, in depressing chambers crawling with cockroaches and failed dreams. A chance meeting with his former mate Charles (Philip Glenister) is an invitation to the bright big Paris of sophisticated ladies and important gentlemen. Georges looks in the mirror on his way to the game changing dinner and feels part of this society already (excellent positive thinking trick circa 19th century, thumbs up to Maupassant). That night he meets the three ladies he will hump eagerly: Madeleine (an elegant Uma Thurman), Clotilde (Christina Ricci in lovely, eyelash-battering mode) and Madame Walter (a heart-broken Kristin Scott Thomas) – his first career leap, considering his last bed mate was a loud prostitute wearing equally loud Matryoshka makeup. Georges, who has no talents, unless you count bed-hopping as one, quickly becomes a ‘prominent’ journalist, notorious for his controversial views, all thanks to his ghost-writer and secret mega mind Madeleine (does this situation sound familiar to anyone in the writing world circa 2012, wink wink?). Georges will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and a terrifying close-up of his bloodless face at the end of the movie is a warning to all women, in Paris or elsewhere.