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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bel Ami (2012)

Set in 1890 Paris, an ex-soldier (Robert Pattinson) newly returned from serving in Algeria is eking out a meager existence as a clerk. A chance encounter with an old army comrade (Philip Glenister) introduces him to French society and slowly the cad rises to the top by using and manipulating the wives of powerful and wealthy men. Based on the novel by Guy De Maupassant (and previously filmed in 1947 with George Sanders in the Pattinson role), the film boasts excellent art direction and costumes to perfectly recreate 1890 Paris society. The direction, shared by Declan Donellan and Nick Ormerod, is adequate and the screenplay is compelling enough to hold our attention. But where it fails, and it's fatal, is the casting of the charmless Pattinson whose brooding puppy persona is all wrong for the role. Furthermore, Pattinson the actor, like his character, simply isn't good enough for the three women who play the crucial women in his life. Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci all bring texture to their performances while Pattinson flails about though, to his credit, you can see him trying to no avail. It doesn't bode well for his career. With Colm Meaney and Anthony Higgins.

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