Bel Ami: Film Review

Watching this period costume drama has left me in a bind: should I analyze it at the level of its lavish production and execution or should I focus on the fact that it is one ginormous mess of a movie?

I should qualify by stating that the fact that I call it a “mess” does not at all mean that it is by any stretch a bad movie. In fact, quite the opposite. There are several sequences in the film that seemingly emerge from an altogether better film of superior narrative quality; alas, these sequences do not comprise the whole of the film, leaving its overarching story to be one of lurid and disconnected storylines that play as convoluted and without direction.

The story is that of a penniless young man named Geroges Duroy (Robert Pattinsion). Duroy is charming and handsome, but wants more than the occasional compliment or visual stare down. He wants power, influence, and wealth, and the most obvious route to another social station are the women of 19th century Paris who are themselves launched on a path of upward mobility.

The women he pursues are lonely and married – Clotilde (Christina Ricci) and Madeleine Forestier (Uma Thurman). He takes advantage of the fact that they have expendable time and income (and affection) and learns to use them for his own benefit. In the end, however, he cannot bear to be himself and must come to terms with a burgeoning sense of self-hatred.

The movie is a fairly stock and standard issue soap opera that happens to be set in historical Paris. Pattinson is left to carry the film (such as it is) on his own and, unfortunately, the characterization isn’t meaty enough to sustain viewer interest until the end.

Overall, it can be summed up in one expression: “Meh.”

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