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Robert Pattinson Drains Life From Misguided ‘Bel Ami’

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Average: 2.3 (4 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Robert Pattinson is such a divisive actor. While he’s clearly one of the most popular young stars in the world thanks to his work in the “Twilight” films, he has yet to prove to most people that he can really act. While some who have seen David Cronenberg’s upcoming “Cosmopolis” claim that this will be the film that finally allows Pattinson to break out of the franchise that has defined him, we’re stuck with something far lesser for now. The misguided and depressing “Bel Ami” is a film that does nothing to help the critical reputation of the man otherwise known as Edward Cullen.

The problem is that I somehow want to defend Pattinson. I think there’s something there. Cronenberg is one of the smartest men in filmmaking and he saw something in this brooding young actor. And so what’s the defense for this mess? He was in over his head and was miscast from the beginning. It’s not his fault that he got thrown into the deep end with more talented swimmers and drowns in this misguided costume drama.

Bel Ami
Bel Ami
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

“Bel Ami,” based on Guy de Maupassant’s second novel, is a tale that requires a charismatic, fascinating lead. And Pattinson doesn’t work as the manipulative cad that this story demands. It doesn’t help that his character arc requires him to not only seduce but get emotionally entangled with truly charismatic actors like Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Christina Ricci. It’s hard to believe any of them would give Pattinson a second glance.

Pattinson plays Georges Duroy in this relatively traditional arc of a poor man who becomes a rich one by using his sexual draw in place of his lacking social grace or intelligence. The film opens with Duroy arriving in Paris in 1890 after serving in the French Army in Algeria. As hunger and poverty threaten to overtake him, he runs into an Army colleague named Forestier (Philip Glenister), who offers him some work writing for a Parisian newspaper. Duroy has limited skills and begins working with Forestier’s beautiful wife Madeleine (Thurman) on his articles while generally starting to rub his superiors at the newspaper the wrong way.

Bel Ami
Bel Ami
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

Meanwhile, Duroy begins climbing the social ladder of Paris by sleeping with its powerful women. Over the course of “Bel Ami,” he will sleep with Madeleine, the editor’s wife Virginie (Thomas), and the emotional Clotilde (Ricci). While the three ladies try their damnedest to make these seductions feel genuine, they have mixed results. Ricci finds a subtle sweetness to her role that’s often missing from her performances but it doesn’t seem to mix well with her character. Thomas is miscast as she’s such a strong actress that one simply cannot believe the way she fawns over Pattinson. Only Thurman comes out well as she gets to play her strong character and sexuality.

Pattinson’s cipher of a character is not the only flaw of “Bel Ami” as directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod can’t find the atmosphere for the piece. The film never feels genuine, coming across as what I like to call a “dress-up piece” more than a period drama. We never lose sight of Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman to get involved in George Duroy and Madeleine Forestier and that’s not only a flaw of the performances but the technical elements that simply don’t come off as believable. It doesn’t help that the directors shoot everything in generic close-up. The film has no character, no personality – almost as if it’s trying to visually match its lead performer.

“Bel Ami” stars Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci, and Colm Meaney. It was written by Rachel Bennette and directed by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod. It opens on June 22, 2012 and is currently available On Demand. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Pete Sands's picture

A word

Mr Tallerico,

Robert Pattinson does not have anything to prove. You tackle DeLillo’s prose brilliantly,carry a movie like Cosmopolis on your own,conduct yourself with grace for 4 insane years in a country you weren’t born in — when every single critic is trying to undermine you — and then come back and tell me Pattinson can’t act.

Bel Ami stank because of its directors. The man was brilliant in Cosmopolis.

Tee718's picture

Re: A Word

I totally agree with you.. The actors are basically going by what is directed. Robert Pattinson, along with his cast mates were brilliant!

femroc's picture

agree

Here here! But Bel Ami didn’t stink - I loved it………Rob makes everything more watchable - his mere presence on the screen is hypnotic and so charismatic - I loved it. And I AIN’T no teenager. I’ll watch and buy everything/anything Rob does.

Dawnbreaker1's picture

Bel Ami review

Mr. Tallerico;
While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I disagree with your review of Bel Ami. I am assuming that you did not read the book. If you had, you would realize that Rob has portrayed Georges Duroy as the author envisioned. He is after all a cold, calculating, unfeeling cad who uses anything and anyone for personal gain. Rob has captured this charming,
people eating monster to a T.

Kathy Ossinger's picture

Robert Pattinson

I totally agree with your response to this ignorant “writers” “critique. Rob is relatively young and new to the game and he did an excellent job at playing the part of Duroy. I can’t see anyone else doing it as well. He has never taken the easy road to fame, even with the Twilight movies, he has always chosen roles that challenged him and were stories he wanted to tell. He could easily sell out and do something cheap and easy and make a fortune. He is in it for the long run and he will be a major force. Everyone wants him in their movies.

Tanner's picture

The critics have all been

The critics have all been pretty unanimous that Rob is the only weak link in this whole chain. And they have all been so over the top vicious I did the VOD and was kind of surprised that I thought it was pretty good for this type of genre. I thought he acquitted himself well. I am struggling to see what other young actor would have been considered a better fit for this one. In the meantime, he looks great, has a killer voice and his expressions all look very normal to me. So chalk this one up to WTF? I mean I saw much worst acting in the last three Nicholas Sparks movies and no one was skewered to pieces for those.

wtf's picture

Men are jealous

I think Rob gets so much negative attention from male critics cause he’s so beautiful and so many women LOVE him………….they’re all jealous as hell and can’t see the attraction that we see - they don’t get it!! And rather than try to figure it out they slash him. He does not deserve that at all. He’s trying hard to please himself and everyone else too. He wants to be taken seriously.

What these men OUGHT to be doing is carefully studying what Rob’s “got” that sends millions of women into orbit.

benni's picture

Every.single.male.critic

Every.single.male.critic coincidentally has mentioned that all three starring women would never find this twentyish year old male actor at all attractive. After seeing his pics above, I have to agree, what a total barker. And the pics of these same male critics are much much superior. I can imagine that they themselves would attract the likes of Uma with their superior intellects and winning personalities. But on a positive note, it is refreshing to hear that so many men instantaneously find women over forty so superior in physical and mental beauty to a young man. If only the producers and directors in HW would follow your leads and offer these women continued interesting roles in future movies. And hopefully some with young handsome love interests such as Robert since that is becoming exceedingly rare.

Irritated by critique's picture

BEL AMI and Robert Pattison were excellent

I am in my 40s and found the movie surprisingly entertaining given the bad press. Robert is captivating, charming and seductive. I think critics are just blatantly mean for some unknown reason. Bel Ami was only released in limited theaters, I would have went to see it opening day is it was available in my area, but had to wait a few extra days to get it on demand. I have talked to a dozen of friends who also enjoyed this movie. Please stop trash talking and let the audience and his fans make there own critique. Excellent Rob as with every movie you have been in. I can’t wait for Cosmopolis!!

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