“Temptation. Seduction. Obsession” promises this period drama adapted from Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel, but unfortunately there is little to be tempted, seduced or obsessed by.
A smouldering Robert Pattinson is playboy Georges Duroy, trying to woo his way around three rich Parisian wives (Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas) to sleep his way into high society.
His bed-hopping adventures keep him writing for the city’s major newspaper and even give him an eye into politics, before his world begins to crumble and his womanising ways can no longer save him.
The lavish sets and luxurious costumes make for some superficial splendour, but the acting leaves much to be desired. Although Pattinson shows off a lot of muscle (satisfying any Twilight fan), his acting performance is only skin deep.
Similarly with our leading ladies, who seem as if they are searching for a come back at any price.
Ricci, whose career post Penelope (’06) has been less than sparkling- TV series Pan Am being the highlight, Thurman, whose last mainstream film was box office flop Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief (’10), and Scott Thomas, who has had some success with her french-language films Leaving, Sarah’s Key and The Woman in the Fifth (’11), but here leaves that flair for french drama at the door.
Each suffer from the hammy dialogue by Rachel Bennette, whose only previous accolades are a couple of episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford and Lewis. This is perhaps a little harsh as there is very little dialogue to speak of: most of the action takes place in the bedroom.
Comparisons may be made to Vanity Fair (’04) or Dorian Gray (’09) for their stylised and sexed up lessons in history, but these would be unfair as they are ultimately meatier and more satisfying films than five minutes of watching Robert Pattinson flirt with someone twice his age.
Ultimately the lack of chemistry and dramatical depth is what lets down the film, but an older audience (as well as twihards, obviously) may still be attracted by the light-hearted and genteel nature of the setting.
Unfortunately, Bel Ami reveals the dark truth to Hollywood success- that even talentless pretty boys like Pattinson can reach the height of fame.