Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.
Georges Duroy is a penniless soldier returning from war. He travels to Paris in a search for ways to improve his social and financial status. He uses his wit and powers of seduction to charm wealthy women. Written by
A diluted, untitillating, badly acted, forgettable imitation of Dangerous Liaisons.
The short version is: Forget it. If you're looking for period enlightenment download The Age of Innocence or, if you're in a darker mood, dive into Perfume. Both in their own ways are delightful, compelling and memorable and both are infinitely superior to Bel Ami.
But if you're still reading Bel Ami tells the story of the rise, greed and dissatisfaction of penniless soldier Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) in 19th century Paris as he manipulates his way into the lives and companies of the powerful and wealthy business men via the beds of their influential wives. He arrives needy, becomes deeply ambitious and evolves into a man both ruthless and unpleasant but neither good nor a friend. We've seen it before and in far better style and Bel Ami serves only those with short memories and the ready-made audience from Guy de Maupassant's novel of the same name.
Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod (I'm still not sure why it takes two directors to ruin a successful novel) have made a passable feature debut but evidently paid more attention to the locations and cinematography than to the acting prowess of their stars. Though irrelevant to the quality of their production, it's notable that both Nicole Kidman and Marion Cotillard declined the invitation to star.
Pattinson is more than adequate as the lead but his performance falls far short of the rotten, charismatic Sébastien de Valmont that John Malkovich gave us in Dangerous Liasons. While Malkovich gave us a lothario we delighted in despising, Pattinson plays a boy who barely twitches our emotions.
Chief amongst the disappointments are Uma Thurman, who was superb and believable in Kill Bill, and Christina Ricci, who squared up beautifully to Samuel L. Jackson in the little seen but excellent Black Snake Moan, neither of whom seems remotely capable of acting in a period drama. There are moments when their twenty-first century-tinged deliveries are cringeworthy.
Yes, Kristen Scott Thomas gives another elegant performance and Colm Meaney is gruff enough to entertain but neither of them can save Bel Ami from slowly filtering to the bottom of the cut-price DVD bucket where it belongs.
It's not even titillating, and for a film about seduction on a grand scale, that's criminal!
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